Illinois schools closed for rest of academic year

Remote learning will continue

Governor JB Pritzker announces school closures for the rest of the academic year during his April 17 press conference.

Editor’s Note: In an effort to keep the public informed during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have removed the paywall from this article. All listed data is pulled directly from IDPH and St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency. There may be discrepancies between the reported statistics. 
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By Angela Simmons, Weekly Editor

Governor JB Pritzker announced the closure of Illinois schools to in-person learning for the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year. The announcement came as the Illinois Department of Public Health announced the largest single-day increase of confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases.

“I’ve said time and time again, our decisions are hard ones, but they follow the science — and the science says our students can’t go back to their normal routine….I know that many have felt this was inevitable – but trust me when I say, this was not a decision I made lightly,” said Pritzker.

He continued “Over the last month, Illinois’ schools have stepped up and faced the many challenges of COVID-19 with generosity, creativity, and a resolute focus on caring for students, parents and communities — and I know they will continue doing so. Districts of every makeup across the state have already done so. Be assured, Illinois’ students are in good hands. Our teachers and administrators are doing what they do best – stepping up to ensure every child in this state receives the education they deserve.”

Pritzker said that grading for students should be reflective of learning at home during a pandemic, and teachers should continue to be compassionate.

Speaking of help for schools, he said “To begin the work of preparing classrooms for students’ eventual return, I’ll be signing an executive order to modify licensing requirements for future educators who are nearly finished with their studies to ensure schools can hire the qualified teachers when students come back.There is $569 million to support our K-12 schools from the federal CARES Act in response to COVID-19, dollars that can help equip students with technology and internet access, support teachers and assist schools in continuing to provide meals to children and communities.”

Addressing adults affected by his decisions, Pritzker said “To the teachers, special ed instructors, and administrators who have dedicated themselves to their students — my heart is with you.

Know that your efforts to reach your classrooms through new, creative ways mean the world to your students, and to me. To the parents who find themselves experiencing a whirl of emotions because of this pandemic – along with some extra stress with your kids at home all day, I promise you we will get through this.”

Gov. Pritzker is the father of two teen students, and he acknowledged the loss that students, especially high school seniors, are facing.

“To our high school seniors, who are leaving this phase of their teen years behind in a way they never expected – I know you are feeling sad about missing the rituals of senior prom, senior pranks, senior nights, and of course, graduation. Hear it from me, as your governor: there’s room for you to feel all the things, big and small. You will get through this, you will talk about this for the rest of your lives, and you will go on to do amazing things. I’m so proud of you,” he said.

Pritzker later said that graduation ceremonies could not be conducted as normal, and he looked forward to possible ceremonies at later dates.

“To children of all ages – this is a very strange moment that you’re living in. Your parents and I didn’t experience something like this when we were kids – but I can tell you for sure that the hard things we did live through, we learned from. And you’re going to learn from this. You’re going to see what it looks like when the world comes together, and what it looks like to put your faith in science, and research, and the teams of people here in Illinois and beyond who are working on treatments and vaccines to save lives. We will get to the other side of this, and that other side will be a place that appreciates the best of before, but with a greater sense of compassion and connection. And the best part is that you are going to be the ones guiding us forward,” said Pritzker.

IDPH announced 1,842 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 62 additional deaths, 25 of which occurred outside of Cook County. Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 27,575 cases, including 1,134 deaths, in 92 counties in Illinois.

St. Clair County has 258 confirmed cases and 17 deaths. The county has not had any new deaths in the last 24 hours. By local zip code, 62269 has 21 cases and 62221 has 26 cases.

Despite reporting the largest single-day case increase to date, Dr. Ngozi Ezike praised Illinoisans for their work to flatten the curve. She shared that she’s the mother of a high school senior, and thanked Pritzker for “not shying away from tough decisions” to protect students.

Dr. Ezike said that Illinois has not hit their peak in COVID-19 cases, explaining that part of flattening the curve is prolonging the peak, and added that it may be more of a plateau instead of a true peak.

Dr. Carmen Ayala “Our school buildings may be closed, but the hearts and the minds of our teachers are wide open,” she said, as she praised districts across the state for their creative efforts to keep students learning, including using radio stations to read stories to children, and parking school buses that contain hotpots in strategic places to allow access to the internet.

Locally, districts have been utilizing social media in addition to classroom learning technology to help students feel involved. Challenges, virtual spirit weeks, virtual parades, story times, and more have all been utilized to help students, and to help teachers who miss being in their classrooms.

“The Illinois State Board of Education does not expect students to replicate the in-class experience,” said Ayala, adding that ISBE would be issuing “transition guidance to help schools address learning loss and students’ social/emotional needs when they return to the classrooms, whenever that is safe to do so.”