Here’s our weekly roundup of Illinois student news reports for the seven days ending Monday, October 5, 2020.
Hurricane Delta has eyes for Louisiana
Hurricane Delta, which heads to Cancun and Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula mid-week, is poised to slam Louisiana on Friday, The Washington Post reports. If it makes landfall as a hurricane, it will mark the 10th landfall this season in this record-setting hurricane season, given the long history of destructive hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, explains Chloe Ladines in The X-Ray, the student newspaper at St Charles East High School.
Free meals extended to December 31
Makenzie Clarken at Limestone High School in Bartonville writes in The Limelight that students, like their counterparts at many other schools, are eligible to receive free breakfast and lunch through the year’s end, regardless of their family’s income, courtesy of the US Department of Agriculture. The extension of the Summer Food Service Program will bring additional federal reimbursement dollars to the school, according to Assistant Superintendent Denise Ryder. The program gives the school “an opportunity for schools that may be all remote to get meals to their students,” she was quoted as saying.
Politicize the masks, or don’t
Some Americans have conflated the idea of refusing to wear a mask with an expression of their constitutional rights, reports Nick Pallotto in The Prowler student newspaper at Plainfield North High School. But the ultimate goal is to get back to normal and keep businesses functioning in the meantime, as much as possible. That means wearing masks, he opines.
Sadly, some protesters have usurped the phrase “I can’t breathe” to protest wearing a mask, writes Amisha Sethi in The Central Times at Naperville Central High School. To a certain extent, masks do reduce the free flow of air around the nose and mouth, but that expression has been used by the Black Lives Matter movement, quoting George Floyd and others who were choked by police in the course of an arrest. “Black people can’t breathe when a broken system weighs down on them, limiting them in their opportunities for the future,” she writes. “White people, you CAN breathe, even while wearing a mask. Recognize your privilege and stop misappropriating this important cultural phrase.”
Abuse of language like that is sickening, but not as sickening as certain police actions, opines Erica Hayden in The Spokesman, the student newspaper at Wheeling High School. She reports that students at the high school actually led a peaceful protest in their hometown about the BLM movement. We “are very empathetic people, and the injustice that was going on literally made me sick to my stomach,” she quotes one of the student organizers as saying. “I wasn’t feeling well, and I was crying and mad. So we decided we weren’t going to sit here and complain because everyone can do that; we were actually going to solve something, so we reached out to some people, spread the word, and had a huge turnout.”
It has become apparent that hate speech stemming from white supremacy groups has made its way to students in our schools. At the Latin School in Chicago, where an Instagram account was set up earlier this year for students to report discrimination anonymously, many of the reports accuse members of the high school’s Young Republicans Club of hate speech, writes Eden Raviv in The Forum student newspaper. Members of the club have pledged to do better. “We already know we don’t have a community where we all agree and think the same things, and that is not just okay, but good,” the upper school’s diversity coordinator was quoted as saying. “We want discussion, we want community, and we want people to be able to engage in discussion,” the dean of community learning added. “But those discussions can never encroach on questioning or debating the humanity of another person. And that’s true for any club, any person, any member of the community.”
E-learning can bring a few surprises
Unbeknownst to many students at Belvidere North High School, due to e-learning, Jim Friesema has taken the reins as the school’s new principal, reports Preston Sewell in The North View. “I didn’t even know we had a new principal,” he quoted one junior as saying. “It will be hard for him to have much effect on us from learning at home, but once we go back to school, I’m sure that we will meet him.”
For teachers at Hinsdale Central High School, the year is about being flexible and learning to accept things they can’t change, write Skylar Penland, Sophie Burns, and Olivia Ostrowski in The Devil’s Advocate. “I really like the [in-person] interaction, [and] it’s really hard to not get feedback from students’ body language because all those nonverbal cues that you get from students guide what you do,” one teacher was quoted as saying. Another added: “One of the reasons I went into this job and that so many other people went into this job is because of the relationships we get to build with students, and it’s not the same trying to build those relationships over Zoom.”
Despite the difficulties and the short-circuited relationships teachers rely on and students need, McHenry High School is planning to return to hybrid learning by the end of this month, reports Kyla Henige in The McHenry Messenger. And school officials at Elk Grove High School in Elk Grove Village might be back on a hybrid model even earlier, by about mid-October. “We would bring in up to 14 students per class at a given time and then when we get under 70 cases per 100,000 would give parents and students the choice of when they want to come in,” District 214 Superintendent David Schuler was quoted as saying in an article by Natalia Habas in The Guardian.
It might help their decision-making process if they had some outside opinions of the pros and cons of e-learning. At Lincoln-Way East High School in Frankfort, Sydney Johnson provides a bulleted list of several things to consider in The Winged Messenger. And in a two-article series, The South Blueprint student newspaper at Downers Grove South High School offers a discussion of the pros and cons of e-learning in paragraph form:
- Students should keep e-learning, by Anika Brown
- Hybrid is the best viable option, by Greyson Martinescu
E-learning is about all many schools can do during the pandemic, but for classes that are usually more hands-on, the experience can be disappointing, explains Elissa Eaton at Naperville North High School in The North Star. One example is honors chemistry, where the teacher uses a program called “Pivot” to perform labs for students who can’t be present. “Even if you are not a fan of science, I feel like we are missing that connection that science can be fun,” the teacher was quoted as saying. Other examples include photography and ceramics.
And “Pivot” may be enabling teachers in Naperville, but in near-north suburban Skokie the online learning system is facing some critical comments from students at Niles North High School. The school uses a system called “Canvas” to turn in assignments for class. “Assignments are everywhere, and it’s hard to keep track of all the work,” one freshman writes in a letter to the editor in The North Star News. “Also, everything is disorganized, and it’s very difficult to find what needs to be done for homework or classes, resulting in a lot of great work. Plus, even though I have Canvas and emails hooked up to my phone, I have no idea when notifications come, and I get very delayed emails.”
But even when all the networks are working without a glitch, many students still don’t turn their cameras on, according to a report in The Fielder at Plainfield Central High School. “The part that’s a little more frustrating for me is that out of 35 students, I might get six that actually show their faces,” one math teacher was quoted as saying. “As a teacher, I read my students to see if they’re frustrated or if they’re bored, so I think it would be a lot better if students would actually let us see their faces.”
Much the same experience with e-learning is being reported by Vivian Aviles at Chicago’s Taft High School in Taft Today. “It has absolutely been a challenge to connect with students remotely,” the AVID and IB Film teacher was quoted as saying. “While I am still able to connect with some, it has been very difficult not interacting with them in person. Side conversations and check-ins have been the most challenging.”
In a video story, Emma Letzig tells students at Prospect High School in Mt Prospect about hundreds of people who came out for a rally, urging school officials to allow students to return to in-person learning. While supporting both parents who want to continue e-learning and those who would prefer 100 percent in-person instruction, one parent is quoted as saying, “I fully believe that you can learn 100 times better in person.”
But coming to a school building in person could affect the spreading of Covid-19, based on the experience of Lane Tech in Chicago, notes Finley Williams in The Lane Warrior student newspaper. One student tested positive after returning to the school to take the SAT college admissions test a week ago, a test that is also required in Illinois for graduation from high school. Seniors who aren’t comfortable being in the school right now can take the SAT in April, one counselor at the high school was quoted as saying: “Wait until April when, hopefully, it’ll be safer. I don’t want anyone to jeopardize their graduation, but I also don’t want anyone to jeopardize their health.”
A “new normal” is what Johanna Selmeczy at Conant High School in Hoffman Estates expects to come out of the pandemic. Projecting into the near future, she recounts, in The Conant Crier student newspaper, the many changes in airport security that came out of 9/11. Then, George W Bush was the president, but things are somewhat different now, she claims. “What will the coronavirus pandemic lead to?” she wonders. “Will America become an example of what not to do? We certainly don’t seem to be paving the way for generations to come. A time where science is being contradicted by national leaders is a worrying time indeed.”
Presidential debate was chaotic
The presidential debate showed that whatever we thought a presidential debate should be, we can always expect the unexpected, which in this case was chaos. Because of the chaos, “the outcome of the debate left many undecided voters questioning who they should cast their ballots for on November 3,” wrote Aidan Lewis in The Green and Gold student newspaper at St Patrick Catholic High School in Chicago.
Collin Fan, Griffin Brown, and Surya Sethi at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire would agree. In their article for The Statesman, titled “Presidential Debate 1: Chaos and Controversy,” they argue that the debate was “full of controversy, interruption, and fiery moments.” Somehow they noticed that there was some discussion of key topics: the Trump and Biden records, the Supreme Court, the coronavirus pandemic, the economy, race and violence in American cities, and the integrity of the election.
Not everyone had as much luck finding topical discussion amid the noise. “Overall, the debate was a complete mess—an utter train wreck,” wrote Kaitlyn Joyner in The Lion Online at Lyons Township High School in LaGrange. “Honestly, it was a waste of 90 minutes. It was essentially a cat fight between two grown men.”
At West Chicago Community High School, The Wildcat Chronicle opined that there was nothing to learn from the debate that people didn’t already know. President Donald Trump is pushing through a nomination for the Supreme Court, failed to renounce white supremacy, and won’t commit to a peaceful transfer of power. Nothing new, right?
Maybe not in the debate, but Mr Trump has made it very clear he wants to put Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court, causing a battle in the Senate between Republicans and Democrats. Her nomination to the Court could have far-reaching consequences, reports Paul Proteau at Riverside Brookfield High School in The Clarion. “Before the death of [Justice Ruth Bader] Ginsburg, the Court was in conservative control with a 5-4 majority. Under a 6-3 majority, there could be some very crucial decisions concerning abortion, healthcare, gun rights, and even the outcome of the 2020 election,” he writes.
But is watching the debate and forming opinions of it even helpful for Illinois voters, given that the state will most likely award all of its electors to the Democratic candidate for president? People who want either Joe Biden or Mr Trump to win should focus on states where there’s actually a question which way the vote will turn out, opines Camille Grant in The Trapeze at Oak Park River Forest High School.
- More debate reactions in The Evanstonian at Evanston Township High School, reporting by Zachary Bahar, Avi Shapira, and Reggie Teinowitz
In a “letter to adults,” Leo Necheles at Jones College Prep in Chicago writes in The Blueprint that, despite the fighting between opposing parties in Washington, he hopes the future is better. “It’s almost as if we live in a nation where we don’t want to see each other thrive,” he writes. “What type of model is that? How can you teach us in school to respect our peers and celebrate our achievements, yet, in the real world, the people who are supposed to be setting the example for us can’t even manage to utter a word of praise for the other side?”
The fine arts during the pandemic
An exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago titled “Monet and Chicago” presents 46 paintings by the French impressionist Claude Monet, and the exhibit gave one University of Chicago Lab School student a new appreciation. “I had seen many of these paintings in books, but when I saw them in person, it confirmed Monet’s amazing painting skill,” writes Julian Ingersoll in The U-High Midway. “The display seemed familiar, yet I felt as if the paintings were genuine and not simply stamped on a postcard, printed in a book, or stitched onto a tote bag.”
Are outdoor band and orchestra rehearsals here to stay, with each musician spaced far away from the others? That’s what’s going on now at Buffalo Grove High School, reports Zoey Heinrich in The Charger student newspaper. “I spent all summer working and coming up with ideas,” the school’s orchestra director, who came up with the idea of socially distanced rehearsals, was quoted as saying. “I was constantly planning different possibilities and trying to get creative. This time does create challenges, but it also creates possibility.”
The delay built into Zoom makes chaos out of an entire orchestra playing at the same time. But if showcasing individual talent is what you want, Instagram may have a solution, according to Lucas Freitag in This Is York at York Community High School in Elmhurst. Students at the high school performed in this year’s first “YorkAtHome Live” show on September 24. “I’m thinking, especially during a pandemic, when everyone’s … mental health is not doing great, music is a good way to keep your emotions from getting all bottled up,” one senior was quoted as saying. Even math competitions can be done over Zoom, writes Finnegan Belleau in This Is York.
And if movies are more your thing, Bhoomi Sharma at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville provides a review of the HBOMax streaming movie Unpregnant. “Despite the humorous tone of the movie, they treat the subject of abortion with the appropriate sensitivity,” she writes in The Echo student newspaper. Warning: The review features a few spoilers.
The voice of sports at Chester High School, Brian “Gritty” Snider, died on September 27 and was remembered by the Chester High School community as his funeral passed by the high school on October 1, The Sting student newspaper reported.
Patrick Thornburn, 48, a history teacher of more than 25 years at Rolling Meadows High School, died on September 10, according to a report in The Pacer student newspaper. He was a National Board Certified Teacher who loved to travel to unusual places, according to his obituary. “Given all of those ‘official’ accolades, I think that his true legacy rests with the fact that there are several of us [past students] whom he taught that have carried on to become teachers in the social studies,” Elliott Olson, a former student and current Rolling Meadows history teacher, was quoted as saying. “I am lucky enough to be one of those legacies and try to carry out my job as a teacher with the passion that he showed.”
Athletic director resigns
Steve Rockrohr, the athletic director at Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, resigned on September 22, following a leave of absence that lasted about a month, reports Maggie Baumstark in The Oracle student newspaper. The reason for his resignation was not disclosed, but an investigation was said to be under way. Mr Rockrohr had been the athletic director at the school since 2002 and had been named the 3A/4A Athletic Director of the Year in 2017 by the Illinois Athletic Directors Association.
Dance, dance, dance. And send help.
Four juniors at Metea Valley High School in Aurora—Ananya Handa, Zara Bahrainwala, Puja Teakulapalli, and Alopi Shah—have come together to provide free virtual dance, wellness, and fitness classes and to support Project C.U.R.E., reports Jessica Velazquez in Metea Media. “We have participants from not only Aurora and Naperville but from other states as well,” Ms Handa was quoted as saying. “We are planning to keep it online in order to keep others engaged. Anyone can join one of our free lessons via Zoom, and if they cannot join a meeting, they are more than welcome to donate.” Project C.U.R.E. is the world’s largest distributor of donated medical relief, sending medical supplies to more than 130 countries.
Finally, if you’d like to see how to produce a vibrant and energetic student magazine, just take a look at the September edition of Drops of Ink from the students at Libertyville High School. The issue is entitled “The New Normal” and was put together without students actually being in the same room. What a great achievement!
I apologize for the delay in publishing this week’s roundup. We had to work to confirm a story out of Downers Grove North High School about a student who was reported missing. This is a serious news story and we wanted to include it, but upon following up, we were unable to confirm the story and, in fact, found reports that the student had been found safe. As this is a side job for me and the few people who help me, we couldn’t hit “Publish” until we could either confirm or reject the story with some certainty.