YORKVILLE – An e-learning days plan for Yorkville School District 115 outside of the COVID-19 pandemic will be set for a public hearing and a Board of Education vote later this month.
Nick Baughman, District 115 associate superintendent for learning and instruction, said during a Monday, Oct. 5, school board Committee of the Whole meeting that under the proposed plan, schools wouldn’t have to add another student attendance day at the end of the calendar year to meet state requirements, as they would have to with emergency school closure days for inclement weather. He said that is separate from what the district currently is doing amid the COVID-19 pandemic and students would just participate in class virtually.
“And we’re fortunate, because we are one-to-one. So we have a device for every student in kindergarten through 12th grade and that we have the connectivity to be able to make an e-learning day happen in the case of an emergency,” Baughman said.
Baughman said sample emergency e-learning day schedules would include students participating in electronic Zoom calls for direct instruction and independent practice activities for at least five hours per e-learning day. He said age appropriateness is considered in the e-learning days plan.
For example, Baughman said, high schoolers would continue to follow their alternating day schedules and there would be no students on campus. He said middle school students would continue to follow their 10-period schedules in 25-minute increments for the day.
At the elementary school level, Baughman said, students would participate in 30-minute math Zoom calls with live instruction and similar 30-minute Zoom calls for English and language arts instruction. He said those students also would be given asynchronous activities to complete throughout the course of the day to fulfill that minimum five-hour day requirement.
“The elementary schedule is probably most like what our current e-learning plan is, but from a [seventh through 12th grade] perspective, this is a little bit of a different schedule” from what students are familiar with currently, Baughman said.
The update comes after former Gov. Bruce Rauner passed a measure in 2015 that created a pilot program for virtual learning days in schools to help keep snow or emergency days to a minimum during the school year. Since then, more schools have started to create their own e-learning day policies.
District officials said the district submitted a similar plan earlier this year to the Regional Office of Education. However, state education officials told district officials that they needed to resubmit the plan for more formal approval, per district officials.
School board member Jason Senffner said this type of plan has been a topic of conversation for the school board, even before the pandemic, throughout the seven years he’s been on the board. He said it’s something that the board always has talked about getting around to in terms of getting rid of days at the end of the year.
“So it seems like a nice plan,” Senffner said.
Baughman said that snow days that the way most adults knew them when growing up may be becoming a thing of the past. He said more school districts are starting to have more technological capabilities to have students participate in class remotely if in-person attendance isn’t possible for any emergency reasons.
Baughman said the general use of e-learning platforms overall seem to be well-received so far within the district.
“And I think, in my opinion, the pandemic has kind of forced us to get used to learning in different platforms,” Baughman said. “And so this is not necessarily a large-scale change for what our families have been used to.”
Baughman said the district anticipates having a public hearing for the e-learning day plan, along with the school board vote for the plan, be scheduled for Oct. 26 at the Yorkville High School library. He said the plan would then be to submit it to the Regional Office of Education for their approval.