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SD103’s Rivera relieved by school closing order

By Steve Metsch

Gov. JB Pritzker’s decision to not allow schools to re-open this

springÑdue to fears about the coronavirus pandemicÑis actually not that bad of

a deal from the standpoint of educators, a local official said.

Kristopher Rivera, superintendent of Lyons School District 103, said he

was sort of relieved to hear about the governor’s decision on April 17.

“Honestly, it makes it a little bit easier to plan for the remainder of

the year. Sitting in limbo was a little more difficult for us, planning to not

be in school for the end of April, and not knowing what to do from that point

on,” Rivera said in a telephone interview.

Schools were to have been closed until April 30 before Pritzker decided to

keep them shuttered through June.

The decision gives teachers and staff a chance to further fine tune remote

learning and the district’s one-on-one initiative, Rivera said.

“And to enhance the teachers’ skills. (The state) gave us five remote learning

planning days that we’re using to help teachers build up their skills,” Rivera

said.

“It makes planning so much easier … You can potentially start looking at

the summer for doing some kind of virtual summer school as well, and we have

the means to do it on a larger scale. Now, we can start analyzing how it will

work out and what our actual plan will be, in the hopes of coming back (to

school) in August,” Rivera said.

Rivera said he wasn’t surprised by Pritzker’s decision to keep schools

closed.

“Yeah, we all had that hunch. Our neighbors in Indiana and some other

areas are closed for the rest of the (2019-20 school) year. It doesn’t come as

a surprise … You don’t want to jump the gun and make plans and be surprised

later on,” Rivera said.

Asked if he thinks the remote learning is working, Rivera said, “we’re

definitely becoming better, day after day, in instructional remote learning.”

“I’m amazed at our team’s training. You know, some teachers had remote

video conferencing tools, but some did not. We had sessions (on April 15 that)

we did remotely. We had 60 to 65 teachers in a session to learn how use Google

Meets and Zoom to conduct lessons with their students,” Rivera said.

More practice sessions were planned for April 22, he said. Google

Classroom is another learning tool.

Rivera is taking a make lemonade from lemons approach to this unusual

situation.

“We’re going to take the positives that we can out of this, enhance our

technology skills, and really enhance what we have going on,” Rivera said.

“You have a choice. You can sulk or can look at the bright side of what’s

going on an make the best of what’s going on. That’s what our whole staff has

been doing.

“I’d like the public to know, when we received a 65-page document of

recommended guidance from the state, we had a week to put together a remote

learning plan that adhered to the guidance. We sat down with a team of

administrators and the teachers union and we knocked it out in one week.

“The effort and work educators are putting out right now, I don’t think

people understand how much harder we are working. And to implement it all on

the fly. This has been like flying a plan when you are building it.

“I’m proud of our staff and administrators and our teachers,” Rivera

added.

The school board is next scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. April 28 at George

Washington Middle School in Lyons.

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