Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Illinois schools will remain closed for remainder of 2019-20 academic year

Staff Report

CHICAGO – All Illinois schools will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Friday, April 17.

However, remote learning will continue for all pre-k through 12th grade students.

“I’ve said time and time again, our decisions must follow the science and the science says our students can’t go back to their normal routine this school year,” Pritzker said. “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. I am confident that our schools will manage and expand the learning opportunities for all our children who will be working from home over the coming weeks.”

Pritzker said hie office continues to work with the Illinois State Board of Education to identify and provide the flexibility that school districts need to address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Illinois will receive approximately $569 million in federal funding for prek-12 schools, as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The funding can help equip students with technology and internet access to enhance remote learning, support teachers in developing their remote instruction skills, and assist schools in continuing to provide meals to children and communities.

Each public school district will receive CARES Act funding proportional to the number of low-income students they serve. ISBE also will receive CARES Act dollars as the state education agency. State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala has committed to directing CARES Act resources toward tackling the digital divide in Illinois’ least-resourced districts, as part of a strategic effort that will continue beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Illinois has taken advantage of other federal waivers and opportunities to help schools meet the need of Illinois’ families. ISBE secured the waiver early on to allow schools to serve meals in creative ways outside of school. ISBE has worked with the Illinois Department of Human Services to prepare for the implementation of the Pandemic-EBT, which will supply families with additional funds for purchasing food during the crisis. ISBE also secured waivers to allow schools to carryover federal funds for low-income students to support their transition back to classroom this fall.

“Our school buildings may be closed, but the hearts and minds of our teachers and students are wide open,” State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala said. “This pandemic has altered the fabric of how we teach, learn, and connect, but it has not shaken the core of what our schools do, which is take care of Illinois’ children and prepare them for what’s next. Our schools focus on social and emotional skills, like resilience and empathy, for this very reason: so that when the unpredictable events in life knock us down, we get right back up. The Illinois State Board of Education is addressing the digital divide head on and planning for the transition back to school in the fall to help our students and educators face and overcome the challenges ahead.”

Each public school district in Illinois has developed and implemented a plan to ensure all students have access to instruction and to their teachers during Remote Learning Days. ISBE convened an advisory group of teachers, superintendents, and students to develop comprehensive Remote Learning Recommendations for all grade levels, including suggestions on grading, content selection and delivery, social-emotional development, and communication with families. The recommendations are available in English, Spanish, Polish, and Arabic at

ISBE has encouraged each school to determine a local method of taking attendance or checking student engagement. Daily virtual contact with students helps teachers understand when students may need additional support with assignments, meals, mental health, or other needs. ISBE also will release recommendations to schools to address learning loss and students’ social-emotional needs when students transition back to in-person instruction.

The governor also waived the edTPA and student teaching requirement for educator candidates who have completed all other requirements for licensure. These and other emergency changes to educator licensure will ensure that the COVID-19 does not impact local school district’s ability to hire qualified educators they need to support students.

Pritzker has also amended graduation requirements for high school seniors, in recognition of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on their final semester. For example, current high school seniors may graduate without the normally required participation in consumer education and physical fitness assessment.

Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Ehren Jarrett sent a letter to parents after Pritzker’s announcement, detailing what they can expect from the district during this time.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced today that we will finish this school year through remote learning, and students will not return to school. This is a sad update, but it’s not unexpected. We’d like to lay out expectations for our students – and what you can expect from teachers – during this unprecedented extended closure.

Grades: Students’ work will be graded, but grades earned during this extended school closure can only raise a student’s final grade. Students’ grades as of March 13 will be the baseline for the rest of the school year.

Elementary students will maintain or improve their scores on the standards-based report card from the March 13 baseline. Middle school students will receive a pass or incomplete during this time, and high school students will receive a letter grade or an incomplete. Students who were failing on March 13 must engage in learning and demonstrate progress to improve their grade. If they don’t, they will receive an incomplete for the full second semester and make up that work when this remote learning period ends.

We started this extended closure with at-home learning resources. Then our teachers shared lesson plans through our Distance Learning website with a priority to reconnect with students. Now, with guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education, we shifted on April 13 to Remote Learning. Our Remote Learning plans outline what is expected on a daily or weekly basis from our students, teachers, school staff and families. 

Through Remote Learning, all RPS 205 students & their families will do their best to:

  • Remain engaged by logging onto the Distance Learning website – now called Remote Learning – and/or picking up a grab-and-go packet at the nearest bus stop
  • Check in with teachers as needed  during their virtual office hours
  • Complete academic work
  • Take care of RPS 205 devices

Students in grades 6-12 have additional expectations and will do their best to:

  • Submit work in teachers’ digital learning platforms each week and contact teachers or counselors via Google Meet phone calls or video calls
  • Maintain a routine
  • Contact your principal, counselor and/or school social worker for support

High school students should also look for support from counselors for transcripts, FAFSA completion, help monitoring credits and questions about post-secondary plans.

We expect teachers to:

  • Connect weekly with each student digitally in Seesaw, Google Classroom, Schoology, or other platforms, or by phone using Google Meet and track those student interactions
  • Return student and parent emails within 48 hours.
  • Communicate learning progress to families

Teachers will focus on grading and student feedback by:

  • Providing regular opportunities to engage in meaningful learning activities
  • Illustrating to students what they have already mastered and where they need to grow
  • Reteaching and reassessing students to show progress on meaningful learning targets
  • Encouraging independent work and longer-term projects for students who are already achieving

Our students are not in school with us to help guide their learning, and that’s a challenge for all of us. Our goal is to reach our students where they are and make sure they know that we want to connect with them and continue to encourage and support their learning. Once again, thank you for your patience and support during this time.


Ehren Jarrett, Superintendent                                     
Heidi Dettman, Executive Director of Academics 

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