Governor J.B. Pritzker announced in mid-April that Illinois schools will remain closed for the rest of the 2019-20 school year, forcing nearly two million students in Illinois to continue engaging in remote learning.
“I’m definitely upset about the school closing. Although I understand it was necessary, school plays such a large role in my life that I’m feeling lost without it… The school closing has been horrible, but I’m thankful for the experience because now I know just how much more I need to appreciate it when we can return,” said junior Hannah Sachs in an interview over email.
Illinois schools had been granted five remote learning planning days in an earlier school closing order, which LHS will use up in the first week of May. According to Principal Dr. Tom Koulentes, after the fifth planning day on May 6, LHS plans to have classes five days a week, but no new instruction will occur on the last two Wednesdays of the year.
The opinions on e-learning have been mixed.
“The only things I enjoy about e-learning are getting to eat lunch whenever I want and getting to sleep in an hour later than normal. Other than those benefits, e-learning has been extremely frustrating, stressful and emotional,” Sachs said. “I don’t enjoy the lack of structure, but I think my biggest issue with e-learning is the lack of connection between teacher and student. Although all of my teachers are being wonderful about reaching out and offering help, it simply isn’t the same as it was before.”
While this time period has been rough for many people, others are enjoying the freedom that e-learning brings, including sophomore Niki Alyari.
“I like that I can do everything at my own pace. And I’m not restricted to doing it in 45 minutes. [For example], today we had an FRQ for AP Psychology, and it took me like a little longer than it would have in class. So it’s nice that I can go based on my own schedule,” said Alyari over the phone.
LHS has been working off of the “no educational harm to any student” policy, which means that during this period of time, if grades fall below where they stood on March 13, the last in-school day of classes, the final semester grade will revert back to where it was on that date. District 128 has decided to cancel all final exams for students and mark failing grades as “incomplete.” Students will also get an incomplete grade on any assignments they would have gotten a zero on.
U.S. History teacher Sarah Greenswag believes that this is the best possible policy because “It is hard to know what individual circumstances exist for every student right now… We need to be flexible and do our best to support students in these stressful and uneasy times. It is important that opportunities for new learning continue, but I do not think it would be fair to hold students accountable in the same way we would if we were all at school together,” she said in an interview over email
Not only have students had to change their schedules. Teachers needed to change the way they had been teaching students, along with the way they were living, in order to accommodate for this new change.
“The closing of school has been heartbreaking in a lot of ways. I love my job because of the community that exists at LHS, and it is hard to be physically disconnected from that community every day. That being said, I think we are all being called to make a sacrifice for the greater good, just like so many past generations have had to do,” stated Ms. Greenswag.
It is still unclear what the next few months will bring. There are possibilities of schools across the nation remaining closed into the start of the 2020-2021 school year, but no one is sure of anything yet.
“It is safe to say that teachers will be revising the way their courses begin next fall so they can help students re-adapt to being back in school and so they can help review some of the information that students were missing due to e-learning this year,” explained Dr. Koulentes.
Libertyville High School has been forced to change certain aspects of its policies in order to accommodate for this unprecedented time period, but it has been able to adapt.
“Students, staff, and parents at LHS have been absolutely amazing during this time. One key attribute of our D128 DARING mission is to be Resilient & Healthy. Everyone at LHS has demonstrated great resilience,” Dr. Koulentes said. “Teachers are working so hard to create new ways to teach students online. Students have been doing a great job of engaging in e-learning and continuing to build their skills and knowledge. Parents have been contacting me each day, asking what they can do to help our school during this time. I am very proud of everyone who is part of the LHS school community for the way we have all come together to support each other at this time.”