Board discusses remote learning as a permanent part of education


AMBOY – “Remote learning is here - let’s deal with it.” That sentiment, which was expressed by Amboy School Board member Katie Pratt during the Oct. 20 Board of Education meeting, kick-started a lengthy discussion on what improvements could be made to make remote learning better for everyone involved. 

Pratt said the Amboy School District was fortunate because there was a good foundation for remote instruction when the pandemic hit in March. Amboy students already had Chromebooks and familiarity with Google Classroom and other online platforms, unlike some schools that were not as far along with technology. Pratt suggested that rather than focusing only on what teachers and schools are doing, parents should be surveyed to get their opinion - find out what are parents doing right, what could be better, as well as what they need help with. She emphasized that everyone knows education requires parent involvement for students to be successful but this year, that reality has become very clear and is more important than ever.

While Amboy schools have been able to hold in person classes since school started in August, there have been some temporary shifts to remote learning. At Amboy High School, all students were moved to remote learning for two weeks, Oct. 12-23 because so many were in quarantine. Then on Oct. 20, Central School’s entire second grade class was also switched to remote learning for two weeks. 

Superintendent Joshua Nichols explained that three second grade students had tested positive for COVID-19 and based on advice from the Lee County Health Department, the decision was made. In a letter to parents, Nichols noted that none of the cases were linked back to the school. 

“This decision was not made lightly as we recognize the inconvenience and challenges it will cause families. However, we felt it was the best way to protect the health and welfare of our students and staff as we navigate this unprecedented time together,” he wrote. 

In addition, a two-day transition to remote learning had to be made at Amboy Junior High on Oct. 16 and 19. Fortunately, that situation was not due to illness but rather to a water main break at the junior high on Oct. 15. Students were evacuated from the junior high to the high school that day to finish the rest of their school day. Nichols said the water main could not be repaired right away, so the transition to remote learning was made and everyone did a great job of dealing with the situation.

Pratt and others attending the board meeting, either in person or via Zoom, shared many ideas for improving remote learning. 

“Remote learning is not just a temporary thing - we need to stop thinking of it that way,” Pratt said. “It’s here and we can make it better. Maybe teachers don’t need to live stream every class every day and please, no more busy work. We need to clearly state the expectations for what remote students are supposed to be doing every day so they know the expectations - if they don’t like it, they can return to in person classes - don’t go chasing them.

“We need to change our way of thinking,” she continued. “A survey of parents and teachers will help us move forward. What is going right? What can we improve? What do they need? Remote learning is not a placeholder - it’s here.”

In response, Nichols pointed out that some things, such as live streamed classes, are required by the state. “They require two hours of live interaction for remote learners per day, so we have to comply with that,” he said. “The state has set standards of what we do but there are things we can work on.” 

Board President Nicole Jones expressed her appreciation to all of the schools for their efforts in dealing with all the uncertainty. “Kudos to the junior high staff, high school staff and Central. It’s been a crazy year, so thank you, thank you!” she said.

PRINCIPALS’ REPORTS

Principal Joyce Schamberger, Central Elementary 

School Improvement

• Parent Teacher Conferences were scheduled to be held virtually on Oct. 22 and 23. 

• Report cards were sent home on Oct. 21.

• Kindergarten teachers uploaded the KIDS assessments.

• The preschool was monitored this year with a virtual compliance visit and all required paperwork sent electronically.

PBIS

• Central held their first quarter celebration in classrooms on Oct. 21 and fall classroom parties were also held that day. Schamberger gave special thanks to Lindsay Kaleel and Ed Ely for the pumpkin donation.

School Activities

• Picture retakes were done on Oct. 2.

• Schamberger thanked Jim Travi and the Amboy Lions Club for their generous donation of pumpkins. Central’s fourth grade students were able to draw on their pumpkins and put them on display for everyone to enjoy.

Principal Andrew Full, Amboy Junior High 

Curriculum and School Improvement

• On Oct. 1, the School Improvement Team met with Anji Garza and Krista Peterson from the Regional Office of Education to discuss remote learning days, Eureka/Wit &Wisdom implementation, walk throughs, coaching support, data review, data walls, and school improvement reports.

• On Oct. 8, a faculty meeting was held to discuss Parent/Teacher Conferences and observations for evaluations.

• Grade levels began meeting to discuss students, problem solve, and choose students of the month.

School Activities

• Full said 13 junior high students returned from remote learning on Oct. 1, but there are still 52 students who have chosen to stay/go to remote learning, which is 21.9 percent of junior high students.

• Full said he is looking into having Amboy Junior High join the Rock River Valley Conference for sports.

Amboy High School Principal Janet Crownhart congratulated September Student of the Month Brianna Blaine.

Curriculum and School Improvement

● On Sept. 30, the SEL and Transitional teams met to plan homeroom lessons for the coming weeks.

● Seven AHS students attended a nursing video chat with a nurse practitioner from Mayo Clinic on Sept. 24. 

● The SIP day was held on Oct 21. SEL and Transitional Teams met to discuss the next few weeks of homeroom.

● Crownhart said although the two-week move to remote learning at AHS changed the idea of school for the teachers and students yet again, they are doing well.

● Math teachers are piloting the Savvas (formerly Pearson) curriculum that the high school plans to purchase for next year.

School Activities

● Crownhart congratulated Wes Wilson for making it past regionals in golf and golfing in sectional competition on Oct. 14 at Spring Creek.

● Cross country was scheduled to run in regional competition on Oct. 24 at St. Bede.

OTHER BUSINESS

• A motion to add six half days to the 2020-21 school calendar was approved by the board. The extra time will give teachers more time to plan and prepare for remote learning.

• Approval was give to the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) policy revisions.

• The board approved the annual audit report following a presentation by Ryan Steines of Winkel, Parker & Foster, CPA PC.

PERSONNEL

Following closed session, the board accepted the retirement resignation of Kay Shaw as a bus driver, effective Oct. 16, and accepted the resignation of Vanessa Goslin as Art Club sponsor for the 2020-21 school year. 

The board approved the revised extra curricular positions for the 2020-21 school year.

The next regular board meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 17 at Central School. All meetings are open to the public. 

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