August usually finds families wrapping up vacations and camps in anticipation of the start of school. This year ‘back to school’ looks and feels different because COVID-19 is not yet in the rearview mirror. School districts throughout the 17th district are taking different approaches to the start of the fall term, with some opting to continue all classes online, others trying a hybrid approach combining some in-class teaching with online instruction, and others allowing students to return full-time to the classroom. ISBE published a school district survey of plans for schools throughout the state, indicating approximately 25% remote, 46% hybrid, and 29% in person.
Although school districts are taking different approaches, I know from my discussions with superintendents that they are all committed to delivering high-quality education while ensuring the safety of students, teachers, and staff members. As a mom of a high school freshman, I appreciate how difficult and disruptive these changes are, and the new demands they place on families. It takes a lot of planning and flexibility to make it all work.
Education in the age of COVID-19 changes quickly, as we all learned last spring. This newsletter includes school news from around the district, identifies educational resources, and provides helpful links for parents and constituents to track the latest news from Illinois education leaders. I am encouraged that several school districts are providing additional emotional support to students as they restart school.
At the state-level I am meeting weekly with the House Democratic Women’s Caucus working group on childcare to address the need for high quality early childhood education and childcare options. Illinois is a leader in providing childcare restoration grants to providers to support working families. We must continue to look for innovative ways to meet unprecedented challenges, but I continue to believe in the strength and resilience of our community. We will get through this together.
In addition to returning to school, August and September will also see Census enumerators in our communities visiting households that have not returned a Census form. If you are visited by Census personnel please provide accurate information or go to www.My2020Census.gov or phone 844-330-2020 to respond. Completing the Census by September 30 is critical to securing adequate funds for local schools and community service organizations, as well as ensuring representation in Congress. I was happy to partner with the Asian American Caucus recently on Asian American Census Day to make sure everyone is counted.
BACK TO SCHOOL NEWS YOU CAN USE
In addition to news from your children’s schools, you may want to bookmark the websites of several agencies and organizations that offer guidance and information to Illinois schools such as updates on reopening guidance related to COVID-19 and whether extracurricular activities such as sports will take place.
- Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), Dr. Carmen Ayala, State Superintendent of Schools. In addition to news about policy and curriculum changes as well as administration, this website has many links to downloadable teaching tools and tips to improve online learning for teachers and parents.
- Illinois High School Association (IHSA), Craig Anderson, Executive Director. IHSA, in conjunction with school districts, articulates policies on sports, music, and other extracurriculars.
- Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA), Steve Endsley, Executive Director. IESA issues policies for extracurricular programs for elementary (K-8) students.
Free Worksheets and Learning Activities to Augment Schoolwork
Several sites allow parents to download teacher-reviewed worksheets to reinforce classroom lessons for younger (K-8) learners. Many are free or available for a nominal or discounted subscription this month. Here are a few of the highest-rated.
- Education.com. Provides guided lessons as well as standalone activities for K-8.
- ABCMouse.com. Has full curricula for younger students ages 3-8.
- Adventure Academy. Focuses on STEM-related lessons for children ages 8-13.
Access Resources and Reviews of Online Teaching / Digital Tools
While we all crave face-to-face interaction, online education is likely to be a relevant component at least for the near future. Several organizations offer resources that make distance learning more fun and productive.
- International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). This global advocacy group is open to individual and group members and offers a range of articles and resources for those looking to make the best use of technology in the classroom.
- Illinois Digital Educators Alliance (IDEA). While aimed primarily at teachers, IDEA has many online events, webinars, and resources accessible for tech-savvy parents as well.
Help Your Students Handle the Mental Stresses of Online School
Area mental health and support organizations have developed content to assist parents, students, and teachers in the transition to online schooling. Here are a few to check out.
- Community Action Together for Children’s Health (CATCH) has an expert-led YouTube series that addresses mental health aspects of online learning.
- The Family Services Center has programming and offerings targeted at addressing the unique challenges youth face in connection with Covid-19. Learn more.
Shoutout to District Students Helping Students
On the hottest day of the year, four District 225 students and alumni teamed up with the Hunger Resource Network to collect over 100 donated bags of personal care items and non-perishable food for students in need. With hundreds of area families expressing a need for assistance, the tremendous effort by Nicole Helinski, Sam Mallahan, Ola Zynel, and Erin Nibeck was timely and truly inspiring. Thank you for your community spirit!
Learn About New Resources for College Students
Covid-19 has changed many families’ ability to pay for college. Illinois has several programs to help students make smart choices about higher education.
- Explore the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) website for college planning resources for students and parents, including information on grants, loans, and work-study programs that are still available.
- The Illinois Student Assistance Corps (ISACorps) offers students a virtual consultation with ISACorps advisors to discuss next steps for their education. The organization can also assist students in understanding their financial aid options.
- Students may find affordable ways to pay for higher education through the Illinois Treasurer’s office which will make low-interest loans starting next year.
COVID-19 UPDATES: Testing, New Enforcement Rules and Housing Assistance
Free COVID-19 Testing in Morton Grove August 21st to 28th
Our office is teaming up with Senators Laura Fine and Ram Villivalam and Representatives D’Amico and Kalish to sponsor a mobile testing site in Morton Grove through the Illinois Department of Public Health. Testing is free – see info below.
Assistance with Housing and Utilities
Housing assistance from the Illinois Housing Development Authority is available now – apply early to ensure your materials are received by relevant deadlines. Applications for emergency mortgage help (up to $15,000) are found at www.ema.ihdp.org until September 4th and rental assistance (up to $5000) through August 28th at www.era.ihdp.org.
- The Cook County Bureau of Economic Development is also offering rental assistance. Applications must be submitted by August 24th. Find info here.
- The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program helps eligible households pay for heating, gas, propane, and electricity. Enrollment for 2021 is open; check eligibility on your Local Administering Agency (LAA) page or call 1-833-711-0374 for support.
- ComEd customers can access assistance by calling 1-800-EDISON-1 (1-800-334-7661), Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. More information is available here.
You can also contact municipality offices for housing assistance provided by community organizations serving your area, or contact the Northside Community Development Corporation. Reach out to the HANA Center for help with applications or language barriers.
Free Legal Aid Services
COVID-19 has strained individuals and families. Free legal advice is now available through New Trier Township grantee partner, The North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic. Attorneys specializing in immigration, domestic violence, and housing law are available virtually for the remainder of 2020 to offer counsel in these areas. Call (847) 737-4042. Click here for more information.
New Enforcement Measures
While most community members and businesses are doing the right thing, new rules ensure that those who refuse to act responsibly won’t take our state backwards. Commonsense measures allow local public health departments or law enforcement to give written notice and a warning of noncompliance with mask and distancing mandates. Only after two separate citations can local officials impose fines ranging from $75 to $2500. Together we can protect the progress we’ve made.
Remember the 3 W’s – Wear a mask, Watch your distance, Wash your hands.
WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT VOTING MEANS TO YOU
Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Passage of 19th Amendment
Women won the right to vote on August 26, 1920 — and we’re continuing the celebration. Would you share your thoughts on what voting means to you? Click here to complete and submit a short form. We’ll display answers in our office and on digital forums before Election Day.
And check out a special Zoom panel discussion on August 25, 7:00 pm, hosted by the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center with The Woman’s Club of Evanston and Women’s Vote 100 Evanston. Commemoration: Rights, Responsibilities & Roadblocks: Critical Stories Leading to the 19th Amendment and Beyond features Sen. Laura Fine, the Honorable Judge Carole Kamin Bellows and writer/historian Rima Lunin Schultz. Click here to register.
WHERE’S JEN AND WHAT IS SHE WORKING ON FOR YOU
- Co-hosting a Blood Drive, Aug. 27th, noon to 6pm, Glenview Village Hall
- Supporting Illinois’s Child Care Center Restoration Grant Program
- Participating in a roundtable with district superintendents about school reopenings
- Visiting Evanston Farmers Market to listen to constituents
- Providing legislative updates to community business groups
- Discussing environmental policy with Chicago Area Peace Action Climate Group
- Promoting Asian American Caucus Census Day
- Providing information resources from Illinois Secretary of State for senior drivers