State mandate suspends in-person learning for the year, remote learning to continue

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Jacqueline Sumida

“It’s sad that we won’t be able to wrap up the year in person as we normally would — seniors certainly have it the worst — but we’re doing what needs to be done,” Haywood said.

By Tatum Mitchell, Downers Grove South High School

Remote learning will continue throughout the remainder of the semester as all in-person instruction in Illinois has been suspended due to COVID-19, according to Governor JB Pritzker’s state-wide mandate.

“[A number of] challenges weighed heavily on me as we came to this decision – but my priority remains unchanged: how do we save the most lives during this difficult time? The answer to that question leaves us only with the path forward,” Pritzker announced in a press conference.

In an email update sent out to the D99 community, superintendent Dr. Hank Thiele spoke on what actions the district has been taking.

“[We] have been working behind the scenes to extend our remote learning for our students. We will be in touch soon regarding the logistics of how we will end the school year remotely. … [We shared] alternate plans for many of our cherished events, including graduation,” Dr. Thiele said.

English teacher Lauren McSweeney spoke on her reaction to the school’s recent closure.

“We want everyone to be able to come back when we know for sure it is safe. I wouldn’t want to stand in front of my students and tell them I trust thousands of us being in the same building is safe yet when I don’t know that is true. However, when I heard the official news, I cried. I cried for the seniors, the athletes, and all of the staff and students who wanted to be back at DGS so badly. I wish I could have formerly said goodbye to all of them,” McSweeney said.

According to an email from principal Edward Schwartz and student activities director Jennifer Martinez, alternative dates for senior events have been scheduled. Prom and graduation will be held on June 29 and July 1. Senior Kate Stanley spoke on the senior celebrations continuing.

“I’m glad we are still having prom and graduation. Even though they may be different than expected, I’m happy that we could still spend some time together before we head separate ways next year,” Stanley said.

Regarding the cancellation of in-person learning, many students have expressed disappointment about not returning to school.

“I am extremely depressed about school closing. School’s closure will not bring closure to my high school career,” senior Olivia Yesker said.

Along with student disappointment, teachers have expressed their concerns about the difficulties of online school.

“I became a teacher because I truly enjoy being around students, interacting with them, building relationships, and helping/inspiring them to learn. E-learning, especially at the beginning before I explored some creative options, felt like I was just assigning things, not teaching,” McSweeney said.

English teacher Nathaniel Haywood expressed his thoughts on the program.

“Remote learning is absolutely necessary to safeguard the lives of our students and faculty, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It has been quite the challenge to adapt our teaching and to try and maintain our classroom communities and student involvement. … Trying to work from home while taking care of family and other commitments is hard for everyone — teachers and students,” Haywood said.

As remote learning continues, sophomore Deanna Eslit said she appreciates the way the program has been handled by her teachers.

“I think my teachers have been really considerate with all that’s been going on and adjusting the course load accordingly. … This whole thing is new for everybody, and I think they’ve been doing a really good job at staying flexible and being able to support us through this in any way they can,” Eslit said.

In addition District 99 has created a support fund for community members in need according to Dr. Thiele. Donations are available to make.

“The COVID-19 Family Support Fund … will be used to purchase gift cards from local businesses that provide groceries, food, and other household essential items to support these families,” Dr. Thiele said.

This story was originally published on Blueprint on April 21, 2020.