How Rural Schools Try To Get Around Technology Barriers With E-Learning

From Reporter Peter Medlin:

Illinois students have been e-learning for more than a month now. Reliable internet connectivity is still one of the major hurdles for many rural districts.

Alex Moore is the superintendent at Montmorency. They’re a K-8 district in Whiteside County with around 230 students.

“On a good day, I get four megabytes per second download speed, so I knew that was going to be an issue,” he said. “About half of our families probably have decent internet.”

Even that “good day” download speed doesn’t meet the FCC’s minimum recommendation for e-learning.

Rural districts like Somonauk have been giving out hotspots for those without proper service.

And schools that don’t normally send students home with laptops had to get them that equipment.

For many younger students, remote learning has to be pencil and paper. Somonauk has had to set up blocks of time where parents can walk into the school and grab their child’s materials while maintaining social distancing.

For now, education officials are also suggesting virtual graduation ceremonies.

While students focus on finishing out this school year, more and more school administrators have to consider long term effects.

If schools are still e-learning in the fall, some worry about how students will adjust to new classes and teachers.

Jay Streicher is the superintendent at the Somonauk School District.

“One of the first things you do is build a relationship with your students. And that’s not going to be easy to do in Zoom. In fact, I think it’ll be impossible,” said Streicher

Streicher says he hopes the State doesn’t wait too long to make a decision about next year. He says if districts don’t have guidance until August, it could be difficult for schools to adjust plans on the fly.