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Education Group Recommends Extending School Time

Jessica Ramos headed up report on struggles created for families and caregivers by the pandemic.
Jessica Ramos headed up report on struggles created for families and caregivers by the pandemic.

An education advocacy group says Illinois schools should plan to make up time lost to the Coronavirus pandemic, perhaps by extending the school day or year.

That’s one recommendation in a recent report from Advance Illinois. Another way to help fill in the gaps could be offering extensive tutoring, according to the report.

The organization in the fall conducted focus groups with 120 students, parents and caregivers to learn about their experiences during the pandemic.

Jessica Ramos, who led efforts on the report for Advance Illinois, says the COVID-19 crisis has worsened existing inequities.

The group recommends the state make investments in schools to help the recovery effort, and make sure state and federal dollars are spread equitably throughout Illinois.

“We know that this pandemic has not impacted students equally. Because there were inequities in our system that had existed even prior to this pandemic. This has only been exacerbating that,” Ramos said.

Meanwhile, lack of access to childcare during remote and hybrid school has created a crisis for many Illinois families during the Coronavirus pandemic, according the report.

Ramos, the organization’s director of community engagement, said, “As we were preparing our questions, and the direction that we wanted to go in, I quickly realized that we couldn't just focus on the educational experiences of students, we needed to focus on what students and families were experiencing overall, before even asking about how education was going and how they were experiencing schooling."

“We realized that communities are really struggling with accessing child care. And that has trickled down into how students are engaging with their education, how parents are supporting their children, how you know, how caregivers are able to be more involved or less involved in the education of their students,"   she said.

The group heard from both students and parents, including essential workers who have no access to child care. Other parents made the decision to keep their children at home to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 at school.

“We heard stories about how parents were getting phone calls from their teachers saying, you know, your child isn't engaging today, where are you? Where is he? Where is she? It's hard to control that when you're not with your child at the time,” she said.

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