Pritzker urges colleges to give attention to COVID aid funds in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – Governor JB Pritzker set out on Monday to urge local school districts in Illinois to carefully target the roughly $ 7 billion federal funding they will soon receive to help students make up for the learning loss that they may have suffered during the pandemic.

“We all wonder if this has been a lost year for our children,” said Pritzker at an early childhood learning center in the Champaign school district. “We are concerned that a year’s worth of online courses and virtual game data will negatively affect their future.”

Pritzker highlighted a report released last month by the state’s P-20 Council, the Guide to Renewing Learning Resources, which outlines many of the problems schools across the state are likely to face when they get on the return to full personal learning and strategies to prepare for some of the problems they should consider.

These strategies include things like diagnostic tests to get more accurate measurements of where students are in their academic progress. Offering more tutoring, counseling, and post-school programs; and possibly even extend the school calendar to add more school days.

Most of the money schools will receive – about $ 5 billion of it – will come through the recently passed American renewal plan. The remainder is the result of two previous federal funding rounds.

According to U.S. Department of Education guidelines, these funds can be used, for example, to purchase personal protective equipment or purchase additional space to provide social distancing in classrooms, hire additional staff to correct learning losses, and strategies for coping with social, emotional issues implement student mental health and academic needs; and fund afterschool and other advanced learning or enrichment programs.

Schools can also direct funds to target groups hardest hit by the pandemic, such as: B. Low-income students, color students, students with disabilities, English learners, students with homelessness, and students with inadequate access to technology.

Suzan Zola, superintendent of Champaign CUSD 4, which is expected to receive around $ 39 million in federal aid, said improving student access to technology was a top priority for her district.

“We have invested since the pandemic began and can now continue to invest in improving student and staff access to technology,” said Zola. “There should never be a time again when students don’t have access to a computer and internet connection in their home.”

However, it remains unclear how long it will take before all schools can be fully reopened. The Illinois State Board of Education has largely left that decision to the local school authorities.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, just over 72 percent of seniors 65 and over in Illinois and 40 percent of adults 16 and over had received at least one dose of vaccine by Monday.

However, Pritzker said a recent surge in new cases and hospitalizations is still preventing the state from entering Phase 5 or achieving a full social and economic reopening.

“You know, we’ve seen this before. I think other places in the nation had three waves. We had two, ”said Pritzker. “We’re seeing an increase in cases here now. But these things come in waves. I am confident that as the number of vaccinations we get – we are averaging over 100,000 a day – the increasing number of people who are fully vaccinated at the same time we are facing an increase, I am I hope that we can overcome the climb for the first time. “

Capitol News Illinois is a not for profit, impartial news service that covers the state government and is distributed to more than 400 newspapers nationwide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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