Education and Schools | WGLT

Education and Schools

Kristen Weikle

Unit 5 schools have resumed part-time classroom instruction at a time in the pandemic that is not really a low-risk period. Cold and flu season is coming. Neighboring states are contributing to a rise in coronavirus infections in Illinois and recent record high daily numbers of new positive tests.

Some say the surge might even be worse than the peak in July. But Unit 5 Superintendent Kristen Weikle said she's not unduly worried about Bloomington-Normal schools.

Brandon Thornton
Lyndsie Schlink

An Illinois Board of Education Teacher of the Year honor has landed in the hands of a Bloomington High School favorite. The Illinois State Board of Education named special education teacher Brandon Thornton its top teacher for the east central region of Illinois. 

Exterior of Unit 5 offices
Emily Bollinger / WGLT

Some Unit 5 and District 87 students going back to school in-person will have a different teacher than they’ve been learning with since August.

Exterior of Unit 5 offices
Emily Bollinger / WGLT

Even with COVID-19 case numbers falling in Bloomington-Normal in recent weeks, a lot of Unit 5 school district parents don't want their kids returning to the classroom.

The district has reported parents of 22.6% of students have chosen to stay with remote learning when Unit 5 goes back to a hybrid class schedule starting Oct. 19. That's about 2,829 students roughly evenly distributed across grade levels.

Barry Reilly seated at desk wearing a mask
Eric Stock / WGLT

District 87 parents have said the remote learning experience has generally been good, except for those with young children.

Exterior of Kingsley JHS
Emily Bollinger / WGLT

Unit 5 students will return to hybrid learning starting Oct. 19.

Georgia Nugent
Breanna Grow / WGLT

Education has been deeply impacted by both the COVID-19 pandemic and rising pressure to end racism. 

Local education administrators detailed how they’re responding to the concurrent issues during a virtual Bloomington-Normal NAACP town hall Thursday night.

Karen with her students
Facebook / Irving Elementary School

Remote learning presents unique challenges for students from low-income families, though the principal at one such school in west Bloomington says so far they’ve managed quite well.

Sarah Nardi/WGLT

Unit 5 Superintendent Kristen Weikle announced Wednesday night a planned return to in-person learning, saying the district hopes to bring students back to the classroom beginning in October “assuming that the metrics are such that we’ll be able to do so.”

Nam Y. Huh / AP

“Gladly We Learn and Teach” has long been Illinois State University’s motto, a nod to its roots as a training ground for teachers. This semester, ISU’s education majors are doing a little less teaching and a little more learning, because of the pandemic.

Watterson Towers residence hall at ISU

Illinois State University admissions officials said pandemic-related fears of a precipitous decline in enrollment did not materialize, with total enrollment falling by less than 1% from the previous year.

Kristen Weikle

Wednesday's Unit 5 school board meeting got off to an emotional start when some parents expressed their frustration with remote learning. 

Alan Mather

Illinois is still facing another crisis alongside COVID-19—a shortage of teachers. And one impacts the other.

Kindergarten Readiness Improves For Second Straight Year

Aug 24, 2020
Illinois State Board of Education

The number of Illinois children entering kindergarten who are fully prepared to start school grew for the second consecutive year in 2019, a possible indication that the state’s increased spending on early childhood education is paying off.

Kids on their laptops
Jessica Hill / AP

Remote learning is not the same thing as online learning.

That’s one piece of advice for parents from Anna Smith, an assistant professor of teaching and learning at Illinois State University’s College of Education. She teaches education-and-technology courses.

Heather's learning pod
Heather Roberts / Courtesy

Overwhelmed. Flustered. Outraged. Exhausted. That’s how Marti Stevens of Bloomington has felt over the past few weeks on the back-to-school rollercoaster.

Educators in Bloomington-Normal public schools say they support the goals of racial justice and equality that embody the Black Lives Matter movement, but they are not on board with all of the group's demands.

Ames Library at Illinois Wesleyan University
Staff / WGLT

Four Illinois Wesleyan University students tested positive for the coronavirus when they returned to campus for the start of the school year.

Laptop is handed off to parent
Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Unit 5 says government trade restrictions will delay the arrival of Chromebooks and tablets it planned to distribute to elementary students to help with remote learning.

Brigette Beasley and Barry Reilly
Eric Stock / WGLT

District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly told school board members Wednesday night he wants to see substantial progress in the region’s COVID-19 response and caseload before he would consider reopening schools for in-class instruction.

Exterior of Unit 5 offices
WGLT file photo

At Wednesday night’s school board meeting, Unit 5 officials appeared to brace for a barrage of public comment.

Picture of University High School
Staff / WGLT

The Illinois State University Lab Schools are following Unit 5 and District 87 in telling parents and families the fall term will start with online classes.

Barry Hitchins and Amy Roser at Unit 5 school board meeting
Izzy Carroll / WGLT

Now that Bloomington-Normal's public school districts have decided to begin the school year with remote learning, parents and educators have begun to scramble to arrange for child care for working parents.

Corn Crib
Eric Stock / WGLT

Unit 5 canceled Saturday's long-delayed high school graduation ceremonies at the Corn Crib, citing inclement weather.

School buses lined up
J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Bloomington-Normal parents say they’re feeling anxious, guilty, and very uncertain as they begin to make decisions about whether to send their kids back to school or keep them home this fall.

Students sitting on grass on ISU Quad
Illinois State University

Illinois State University's largest-ever fundraising campaign surpassed its target by $30 million.

Person cleans a classroom
Charlie Neibergall / AP

The union that represents Unit 5 teachers is calling on the district to revise its just-released pandemic reopening plan to address "hundreds of unanswered questions" and then "move forward in a way that reduces risk and keeps students and staff safe."

Bloomington High School
Eric Stock / WGLT

District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly said he understands the hesitation teachers have about returning to the classroom next month in the midst of a pandemic.

Volunteers packing backpacks while wearing masks
Jan Meadows

An annual back-to-school party for thousands of children in Bloomington-Normal won't happen this year.

At least not in the same way.

LeRoy Elementary School
Facebook/LeRoy Elementary School

School districts have surveyed families to get a better idea of how to plan for the upcoming school year, knowing the pandemic could easily change those plans.