Jack (left) and Henry (right) Woltzen, third graders at Founders, participate in online learning last week while little brother Sam, 2, plays between them.
Jack (left) and Henry (right) Woltzen, third graders at Founders, participate in online learning last week while little brother Sam, 2, plays between them.

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DeKALB -- For a lot of teachers in DeKalb, the first week of online learning that ended March 20 was a lot like the first week of school – lots of review, not a lot of new material.

But as Monday rolls around to begin week two, eighth-grade math teacher Shawn LaPlante said the program worked well enough to give him hopes for its expansion should the school remain closed past April 7.

"Everything I assigned was review," said LaPlante, a teacher at Huntley Middle School. "I didn't want to risk leaving someone behind. If we move forward with this thing we're going to have to add new content, and that will require all students to watch video lessons and those sorts of things."

Jessica Cisneros, a fourth-grade teacher at Littlejohn Elementary School, said things kept getting better as the week went on. She said 24 of her 26 students logged in every day, although less than half completed all the assignments.

Still, she said she was very impressed with the level of participation.

Moving forward, Cisneros said they're learning more about the process each day.

"It's still kind of up in the air about what the state requires," Cisneros said. "We can't really give assignments that would affect grades or teach new concepts. So it's been a lot of practice, which is good for those who are struggling. It's just basic things to make sure they're not losing too much."

For Christine Vest, a social studies teacher at the high school, it's been a little different. While the first week wasn't technically required by the state – Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker declared the first five days Act of God Days that don't have to be made up – she teaches a couple classes with different requirements.

She teaches AP History and is still preparing students for that exam, as well as a civics class mandated by the state. All students must also pass a constitution class.

Vest said she expects the involvement among her students to be about the same next week as it was last week.

"It's probably going to be a little of the same," Vest said. "And we're using technology like Screencastify and Google Meet to stay in touch. The technology is smooth because I know what to expect and the students do, too. But it'll be more of the same type of activities. We got some great ideas from Facebook pages that are plausible for us to use."

LaPlante said he was really impressed with how the district has responded across the board – from employees distributing food to students and teachers helping each other understand new technologies.

"It's a time where the community has come together and we're seeing that even if some of us are further away, we're all delivering and giving content to students," LaPlante said. "It's refreshing to see that approach of working together and try to collaborate."

And he didn't hesitate to call the week a good one.

"I think it went as well in very unusual circumstances as it could have," LaPlante said. "There's room for improvement but in education there's always room for improvement. I'm impressed with what the students did. I think there's avenues like this to explore more as we're doing this for the foreseeable future."

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