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Local schools prepare for 'long haul' while arranging remote learning

Lincoln Prairie Elementary School third grades power up their Chromebooks in Sue Hewitt's classroom on Aug. 16, 2016, in Lake in the Hills. Algonquin-based Community School District 300 is giving every first through eighth grade students Chromebooks.
Lincoln Prairie Elementary School third grades power up their Chromebooks in Sue Hewitt's classroom on Aug. 16, 2016, in Lake in the Hills. Algonquin-based Community School District 300 is giving every first through eighth grade students Chromebooks.

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Schools throughout McHenry County will begin remote learning days Tuesday, although some expect the change will carry them through the end of the school year.

In a letter to parents Monday, Prairie Grove Consolidated School District 46 Superintendent John Bute laid out what the all-online school day will look from early childhood education through eighth grade.

"We anticipate and are planning for, the 'Remote Learning Days' to continue through the 2019-20 school term," Bute wrote. "If the Governor reopens schools during the 2019-20 school term, [we will] take the following transition back to in-person learning actions."

Should Prairie Grove schools re-open before the end of the school year, the buildings and buses will undergo a thorough cleaning, and staff will acclimate students as if it were the start of a new school year, Bute wrote.

Harrison School District 36 Superintendent Susan Wings, however, still hopes remote learning is merely a short-term arrangement.

"We are not planning that the remote learning days will last through the remainder of the year, and we're hoping they do not last through the remainder of the year," Wings said in an email Monday.

Concerns about the spread of COVID-19 forced Gov. JB Pritzker to issue a stay-at-home order until April 7. As more cases of the coronavirus are reported, it appears the order likely will be extended past that date.

The order started March 14, which left one week of classes before most schools’ spring breaks. Pritzker declared the days of March 16 to 20 as “act of God” days that schools did not have to use e-learning.

Now, with spring breaks over, schools venture into remote learning for an indefinite period.

Districts including Fox River Grove School District 3, Woodstock School District 200 and Crystal Lake High School District 155 are erring on the safe side and preparing as far into the semester as possible.

"While we implemented an eLearning plan during the act of God days, we've taken a broader and deeper approach to our learning models and have developed plans that can last as long as we need them to last, District 200 Superintendent Michael Moan said. "We have to anticipate any eventuality."

Teachers will continue to track student engagement through tasks including completed assignments, class discussion through Google Classroom, and emails with photos and videos of completed learning activities.

Although it's hard to speculate how long schools might be closed, Huntley School District 158 Superintendent Scott Rowe said he's "planning for the long haul."

"It would not be in our students' best interest to plan a week at a time, hoping we return to normal," Rowe said. "Our normal has been thrown out the window. We have to create a new normal for learning, which will work for all of our students."

• Northwest Herald reporter Joe Stevenson contributed to this report

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