Carbondale Elementary School District 95 moves to remote learning for fall

By Keaton Yates, Staff Reporter

Corrected: Aug. 5 4:42 p.m.

As of July 23, Daniel Booth, superintendent of Carbondale District 95, announced that schools within the district will be teaching students remotely.

“I’d encourage any parents of our returning students to complete our online registration, which is now open through August fifth,” Booth said. “We’ll have a new student registration on August third and fourth.”

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According to the Return to School Plan on the CES#95 website, the full in-person learning model is unlikely to be used this school year unless there is a vaccine or effective remedy to COVID-19, and will only be used if Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker permits it.

A full remote learning model means that all students will be placed on a remote schedule Monday through Friday, where they will use district-distributed devices and connectivity. 

“The biggest challenge will be transitioning to this mode of learning, but we’ve seen that our teachers are ready to go, they’re excited about it, they feel like it’s the safest way to begin this school year,” Booth said. “We have processes in place, we’re working where every student has a Chromebook and connectivity.”

Parents will be responsible for devices, including power cords, and will have to agree to financial liability for any lost or damaged devices. 

Gerald, a parent who chose to go by this name for fear of retaliation for his comments, said he thinks solely implementing full remote learning is a mistake and that it will affect the students and parents negatively.

“Initial communication received earlier this summer told us it would be a partial week, maybe three days remote, two days onsite,” Gerald said. “I think that was a fair option.”

Gerald said his preferred learning method would have been a hybrid option that parents could choose based on what would be best for themselves and their children.

“I have many friends who are dual income homes. I don’t see how they’ll be able to swing the change without severe impact to at least one of their jobs,” he said.

Booth said CES#95 is working with local community partners, such as the Boys and Girls Club and the Carbondale Park District, who will be able to offer support to families who work. 

Brooke Crombar, a third grade teacher at Thomas Elementary, said she feels the safety of Carbondale staff and students were put first in the district’s decision.

“It is going to prove challenging to meet the true needs of students through a computer screen, but we will all do the best we can,” Crombar said. “ However, I’m up to the task and am so eager to get started.”

In the beginning days of remote learning, students will complete assessments to see if learning loss has occurred over the breaks, and during the first few days, teachers will teach students how to use the devices, according to the School Plan book on the CES#95 website.

“Academic gaps are going to be there. Our students lost a full quarter of learning in the spring, experienced the summer slide, and will now be learning in a much different format than ever before,” Crombar said.

Gerald said he is anxious that his children and other students will fall further behind than what they have already following last spring’s abbreviated semester.

“I’m glad that there is a remote learning plan. If or when in-person school resumes, if my children or other children are ill they will be able to work remotely and hopefully not miss too much school work,” he said.

For remote learning, a daily schedule and all materials will be provided to ensure students can work on self-paced assignments and ensure they learn from live instruction. 

“Teachers will be teaching live from their classrooms. Some lessons may be recorded,” Crombar said. “Students will have expectations as far as attendance, behavior, and work completion.”

Booth said classes such as physical education, music and art will be taught every day instead of only a few times a week.

Parents will be able to meet with teachers virtually at designated times if they have concerns about their child’s learning. 

“I would encourage parents to reach out to their principal. They will be able to walk them through and support them,” Booth said.

Updates will also be communicated through email and CES#95’s Facebook, Twitter and their website, ces95.org.

Along with Chromebooks and Wifi, CES#95 expects to deliver meals to bus stops on regular routes and possibly additional pick-up sites.

“CES #95 has ordered 2,000 Chromebooks to replace existing Chromebooks in our schools,” Crombar said. “The district is also working to provide WiFi for families who need connectivity, working with various internet providers. Families can also contact the district office with their needs.”

During the first two weeks of school, time will be devoted to focusing on students’ social and emotional health due to COVID-19, which will address students’ social and emotional needs and help students to integrate back into school.

“When we resume school, social and emotional learning will be our first priority with students.  Academics are, of course, important, but the well-being of our students trumps everything,” Crombar said.

Surveys will be conducted to know which students need support and a list of resources will be sent to families that can be used to provide other social and emotional learning support for students, according to the website.

Services for students with specific health or support needs will also be addressed individually with families. 

Gerald said he has worries about special needs children such as his own who will miss therapy both in and out of school, which will worsen learning delays.

“[Special needs students] will indeed need a great deal of support.  The district will be working with Tri-County and the district special education department to plan for our special education students,” Crombar said. “Special education will be a part of their remote school day.”

Special education and related services will use secure, digital platforms to ensure privacy for families, who may provide consent to participate in teletherapy sessions. 

Booth said he encourages parents to be flexible as the situation changes and they will be taking time to look at cases in Jackson County and Carbondale. From there, they will make a decision on whether or not they will be staying in remote learning or go into a blended model.

 “If we all do our part, this situation is temporary. Everyone is doing the best they can in a situation where you can’t make everyone happy, and everyone feels so strongly in their own opinions. Be patient. Have grace. Be kind. We’re all in this together, ”Crombar said.

Staff reporter Keaton Yates can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @keatsians.

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