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H-F High School adjusts online learning schedule to meet student needs

Moving to distance learning has been an all-hands-on-deck project at Homewood-Flossmoor High School, but administrators say the results have been remarkable.

During the District 233 board meeting Tuesday, April 7, Nancy Spaniak, director of curriculum, instruction and professional development, told board members: “The work has been nonstop. It’s been exhausting, but it’s been so good and so affirming and we are making things work for students. As a community we can feel so blessed that we’re moving forward.”

Spaniak said of the nearly 3,000 students attending H-F, about 120 students are not signing in to Google Classroom between 8:30 and 10 a.m. daily. 

“That’s 120 students too many,” she stressed and told board members guidance counselors and teachers are checking up on those students. “We are working very hard to make sure nobody falls through the cracks.” 

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H-F has adjusted its initial remote instructional calendar. Rather than students meeting in each class every day as they would in school, the new schedule has them following a schedule for four one-hour classes meeting Mondays and Wednesdays, and three one-hour classes meeting Tuesdays and Thursdays. Friday is considered a “catch up” day giving students a chance to complete their assignments and for teachers to plan next lessons or do follow up with students.

Teachers are posting two lessons for each class per week. If a teacher is conducting a virtual classroom lesson, the teacher is asked to record the lesson and post it to the school’s Google Classroom link so it can be available to students who may not have been available during the scheduled class time. 

Spaniak said the schedule was adjusted because “we realized we really needed to give the teachers and students a timeframe when each period would meet, so teachers would have an opportunity to have office hours or virtual classroom meetings.”

She said the change also addressed student concerns that “they were being overwhelmed by the amount of work” and to recognize students’ are balancing responsibilities between home and school.

Superintendent Von Mansfield said H-F is following information from the state on guidelines and criteria. He applauded both Jerry Anderson, H-F principal, and Spaniak for their work in restructuring things “so that not only do our kids have an opportunity to access curriculum but they’re actually learning and teaching.” 

Spaniak said credit also belongs to Gary Posing, technology director, and his staff, who have enabled administrators, teachers and students to stay connected. 

“Right at the beginning the department chairs met to create a lesson plan template: what an e-learning day could look like; what an e-lesson could look like,” Spaniak said. “And then all the work that’s been put in as far as teacher expectation, student expectations. What do you do when it’s a core course versus an elective course. It’s been a work in progress.”

Teachers have been working in teams to set class expectations. Grades will be given. When necessary, students get a NG (no grade) for time to redo a project to show proficiency, or I for incomplete. Teachers area available from 8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. and will respond to students within 24 hours.

Mansfield said he’s been on calls with other administrators around the state and realizes H-F is doing an exceptional job meeting students’ needs during this challenging period. He said this system will  be in place through April 30. H-F will continue e-learning if Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces an extension of the stay-at-home directive.

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