Should Illinois schools switch to distance learning as COVID skyrockets? Here’s What Pritzker Says – NBC Chicago

As the rapidly spreading omicron variant fuels an increase in COVID-19 cases, calls have mushroomed across Illinois for school districts to reinstate distance learning.

At least two Chicago-area districts – Niles Township High School District 219 and West Chicago District 33 – have switched to online education, especially due to staff issues caused by COVID infections and employee absences.

Despite calls from the Chicago Teachers Union and some parents, Chicago public schools welcomed returning students after winter break on Monday, saying their COVID policies would keep students, teachers and staff safe. .

After raising concerns about the district’s testing strategy and the overall COVID strategy, CTU announced plans to assess support for a district-wide distance learning action later this week.

There are no plans to reinstate online learning statewide, as the decision is usually made at the school district level.

When asked if he thought a switch to distance learning was necessary, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said Monday that “the best thing” is for students to be safe at school.

“I always said it was better for our students to have them in class,” he said. “But safe, and that’s why we have provided and offered testing and we have offered and provided more vaccines. And so we hope the school districts across the state will accept us. Many have.”

In support of its position on classroom education, the Illinois Department of Public Health cited a study by the Centers for Disease Control which found that distance learning can be difficult for many students and lead not only to loss of learning, but also to worsening mental health.

“The majority of students need full-time in-person access to their teachers and a support network at school to stay engaged, learn effectively and maintain socio-emotional well-being,” officials said. of the IDPH. “Restoring full-time in-person learning for all students is essential to our state’s commitment to equity in education. “

While health officials continue to widely recommend face-to-face learning, there are situations where distance learning is advised.

For example, if a major outbreak occurs at a school, a temporary shutdown, called an “adaptive break” by the Illinois Department of Public Health, may be implemented by district officials.

During the short-term shutdown, a school would switch to distance learning to allow time “for local health officials to better understand the COVID-19 situation.” Decisions should be made at the local level by school district leaders and the local health department, according to the IDPH.

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