Districts considering extending school year to address learning loss

(The Center Square) – Now that Illinois’ top education official has recommended school districts consider extending classes into the summer, how many will reconfigure their school calendars?

In a letter to school administrators, State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala said districts should begin planning now to reimagine the school calendar, a move she said will help mitigate remote learning loss by offering more educational opportunities.

Although an extended school year would come with additional costs to school districts, Ayala said over $2 billion in COVID-29 relief that Illinois is getting from the federal government could make it possible.

Ayala said the funds should primarily be used to “close the digital gap for good.”

The Chicago Teachers Union proposed that Chicago Public Schools delay in-person learning until all employees have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Then they proposed meeting with the district to develop a mutual agreement on a schedule for an extended school year. Teachers are part of Plan 1B and will begin vaccinations on Jan. 25.

Macomb District 185 Superintendent Patrick Twomey said remote learning loss is on the minds of school administrators and will be addressed in the near future.

“It is going to be about, when kids are back in school full time, taking good assessments about where the kids are right now, identifying where those gaps are at, and then addressing those gaps on an individual student basis,” Twomey said.

Twomey said they are not considering an extension, adding that after this unusual school year, everyone will need some time off.

“In my experience so far, I think if, of all years, parents and kids are going to be ready for a break when it’s time for the natural break,” Twomey said.

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