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Champaign Schools To Provide Chromebooks, WiFi Hotspots For Remote Learning

Susan Zola
Champaign Unit 4 Schools Superintendent Susan Zola provides an update on the first quarter's distance learning at a media briefing Thursday in Champaign.

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign Unit 4 Schools are preparing to return to distance learning this quarter when school starts on August 26. At a press briefing Thursday, Superintendent Susan Zola said one of the district’s main priorities is meeting WiFi and technical needs for students.

Starting next week through August 25, the district will distribute Chromebooks to students who need them. They’ll also be setting up student support centers at three different school locations in Champaign to help address some of the technical concerns that come with remote learning, Zola said.

Parents can call a helpline to set up a time to visit a center with social distancing precautions in place.

The centers are “a space for us to reconnect with families that may need more technical support,” Zola said. “Maybe grandma is watching the 2nd and 4th grader while mom and dad are at work, and grandma just needs some help understanding how to log into Google classroom, how to connect to the Zooms.”

Zola said the district will also set up systems to help students access WiFi, like providing Comcast coupons and about 100 hotspots for families.

School officials are also developing new plans and resources to help keep students connected during the remote quarter—and to prevent learning loss when students can’t access face-to-face instruction. Zola announced that the district’s teaching and learning team has created a “pacing guide” to help teachers and parents meet students where they’re at academically.

“The pacing guide allows a teacher to go back and look and see: What would have happened in the fourth quarter for the second grader who’s now my third grader? And let’s meet them where they’re at,” Zola said.

She also said the district will provide social-emotional learning resources, such as an internal curriculum based on Second Step, a program designed to help students set goals, communicate and gain confidence.

“Because right now we know for some of our students, they’ve been disconnected since last March,” Zola said. “And understanding whatever experiences and feelings and emotions they’ve had in terms of not being with a teacher is as critical in the re-entry as it is to determine where you’re at academically.”

Zola did not provide any insight as to whether schools are expected to extend distance learning to the second quarter. But she said she’ll be working with Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Administrator Julie Pryde, as well as other public health and school officials, to help guide that decision at the end of September.

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