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First Day COVID-19 Jitters at Unit 5

Written by on August 25, 2020

Photo courtesy to Unit 5 Facebook page

NORMAL, Ill.- Unit 5 staff members were so excited to greet students and see students’ smiling faces. Today, Aug. 24, 2020 was the first remote-learning day for Unit 5 schools.

One Illinois State University student-teacher and senior is experiencing her first time in a student-teaching environment. ISU has a unique program where student-teachers stay with students for not one semester but two. ISU Early Childhood major Abby Panozzo will remain “in her classroom” until May 2021, but “in her classroom” looks digital.

“I’m actually in the school teaching, it’s a little interesting with no kids.”

Panozzo gets to the school in the morning to set up, and she sends out a schedule for the students to digest the day before, so that way there is more preparation. The class is set up like a “Bit-Moji” class where students can click on their avatar and it takes them to their tasks for the day.

“Since it is kindergarten, we don’t like to have them synchronous the whole time. We will have them for a couple blocks, the rest of the time they are working at their own pace. Sometime you get tired of it, like anyone else.”

As far as content, the students are working heavily on reading, writing and basic math. However, there is social and emotion teaching. This is talking about your feelings, how to be a good friend and being a good person.

“A lot of basic content, we aren’t doing social studies or science because our time is very limited with them,” said Panozzo.

Pre-school is not required in the state of Illinois.

“Not every kid is the same. Some kids are coming from pre-school, curriculum day care or just from home. There are some kids coming in with nothing. Today was a ‘just to get to know you’ day. Go through a mini-daily routine.”

After monitoring local health metrics, consulting with the McLean County Health Department, and continuing to study the latest information regarding how school-age children are susceptible and can spread COVID, the Unit 5 schools on Aug. 6, 2020 came to the decision all classes would be moved fully online.

“This is the safest option right now, they are only in kindergarten, so they can pick up the social skills in the Spring, hopefully.”

Panozzo says with this option the students will not only be protected but the teachers as well.

“Everyone forgets that teachers, especially older ones, may have elderly parents, neighbors and friends that are immune compromised, but this is the safest call.”

For the district, they are using Google Meets, WEBX and ZOOM. For the younger children they are using Google Meets, just because it is more “user-friendly.” They are also using the “SeeSaw App,” which is an app that can be used for parent-teacher communication.

Panozzo says this may have been a bit delayed and caused some parents to be a bit unprepared. Panozzo’s hometown is in the southwest suburbs and her elementary district moved online weeks ago. “Parents have been more prepared,” said Panozzo. She believes moving fully online is safer than the original hybrid option purposed by Unit 5.

“This was a little rough for our parents in Unit 5, especially kindergarten families who have younger kids, it has been a big adjustment for them, unlike the parents in my hometown who have had some more time.”