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When B-N schools close, options exist for families

Man walks down hallway at empty school
Alvaro Barrientos

District 87 schools were forced to close Friday because of staff shortages and student quarantines due to COVID-19. Unit 5 also closed its schools, citing Friday’s frigid temperatures as cause to shift to e-learning for the day.

No matter the reason, the closures sent families scrambling to make arrangements for kids.

Even one day of school closures can be disruptive for families, said Liz German, the CEO of YWCA McLean County.

“But we also know that nobody in this situation wants the kids out of school. The districts want them in school, we want them in school, families want them in school. But we have to keep them safe,” she said.

Neither district has signaled plans for closures beyond Friday. But skyrocketing cases of COVID-19 in McLean County, along with high-profile closures like Chicago Public Schools, has some families bracing for a return to remote learning.

“I think that at this point our parents are hopeful that this is kind of a temporary measure to get us back to a better place,” German said of YWCA clients.

But in the event of prolonged closures, the YWCA offers remote learning assistance for families in need. The programs have been in place since the start of the pandemic, and German said YWCA teachers are ready in the case of another shutdown.

“I think we were all on guard this week that kids might not be in school, that a change might happen. So, we’ve been preparing for that,” she said.

The YWCA has programs in all District 87 schools as well as Carlock, Fox Creek, and Colene Hoose in Unit 5. German said YWCA teachers have good working relationship with school staff that allows them to support students during remote learning.

German said the YWCA also is a good option for kids who need a safe place to go during the day.

Erin Williams, who owns and operates Iron Coyote Challenge Park, said her facility also has accommodations for remote learners. Iron Coyote established a remote learning day camp last year that had 20 participants.

In addition to physical activities and crafts, Iron Coyote offers classroom spaces, internet connectivity, and online whiteboards. Williams said while most of her campers are “self-sufficient” when it comes to remote learning, Iron Coyote does offer assistance for younger kids.

Iron Coyote offers day camp 7 days a week, from 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. Williams asks families to sign up online to ensure proper staffing.

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Sarah Nardi is a WGLT reporter. She previously worked for the Chicago Reader covering Arts & Culture.
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