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Illinois Parents Push Schools to Expand Online Class Options

Parents of Naperville, Ill., students are appealing to district officials to expand the remote learning classes being offered this fall so that they include the same courses being taught in person at schools.

by Suzanne Baker, Naperville Sun / July 29, 2020
Moser Tower, home to the Millennium Carillon, is a local landmark in Naperville, Ill. Shutterstock/Joe Hendrickson

(TNS) — Parents of Naperville, Ill., students are appealing to district officials to expand the remote learning classes being offered this fall so they include the same courses being taught in person at schools.

The e-learning program is called the Online Academy, and students must enroll for the entire semester or they will automatically be placed in the district’s hybrid system under which they will attend classes in person on a part-time basis.

In reevaluating its initial Return to Learn Plan, district officials Tuesday said they have identified some areas that must be changed to ensure compliance with the state guidelines and to ensure a safe return to school.

The changes include suspending the deadline to select the Online Academy indefinitely and shifting the start of the school year to Sept. 1. The deadline had been July 29.

The district said students who have chosen either option will have access to selected specialized programs, such as dual language and Advanced Placement courses. Students who qualify for an individual education plan will continue to receive appropriate services.

When the school reopening options were unveiled earlier in the month, officials warned older students that e-learning elective and core choices would be limited compared what is available if they attended school in person.

That is not sitting well with parents, who fear their high school juniors and seniors are being forced to decide between protecting their health during the coronavirus pandemic and the classes they want to take.

change.org petition drive calling for more remote learning options has been launched, and had nearly 850 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.

companion online petition is calling for the expansion of the Online Academy option to include all courses being offered in-person, such as AP and honors classes and gifted education instruction.

Parent Jennifer Hajer said she’s unhappy because nearly all the classes her son registered for in the spring are not currently listed among those being offered through the Online Academy.

As of this week, the only class the Naperville Central senior was certain he could sign up for is physical education, Hajer said.

To meet graduation requirements, her son needs just one career and technology education class, she said. He had planned to take a digital art class in the fall, though it’s not offered at the moment.

Decisions on which courses will be offered in the fall won’t be determined until after registration for the Online Academy closes, district officials said. Final course offerings will depend on enrollment.

In the meantime, the Hajers and other families are stuck in limbo, waiting to see if any more courses will be available online this fall before committing to the hybrid program or opting to do classes from home.

District 203 has said a limited number of elective courses aligned to graduation requirements will be available for Online Academy students once enrollment is set. Online courses in art, music, career and technical education, Spanish and French have yet to be determined.

While district officials have said they will strive to have courses facilitated by district teachers, there could be some in which content is purchased from a vendor. The district already contracts with groups like Illinois Virtual School to provide online courses.

In the event there’s not enough enrollment for an online course, the district has said students will be pre-enrolled in courses best aligned with previous in-person schedules without duplicating past coursework.

Hajer said her family has already decided the Online Academy is best for their family. “For us, that is what works,” she said.

However, Hajer said she’s willing to pursue other options to supplement coursework if District 203 can’t provide it, such as enrolling in classes provided by local colleges.

She said she feels bad for families who might not have that ability and will get stuck with what some parents fear are sub-par courses.

Her family will continue to take 2020 day by day, she said. “I understand this year may look completely unconventional,” she said.

©2020 the Naperville Sun (Naperville, Ill.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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