DANVILLE — Danville District 118 Superintendent Alicia Geddis apologized for the rough start to the new school year at Wednesday night’s school board meeting.

“We had a few technical difficulties,” she said. “I want to apologize to anyone and everyone who had issues.”

Geddis was referring to the issues students and their parents had logging into the district’s remote-learning platform and getting through to the district’s IT department help desk on the first day of school on Tuesday.

“The Internet is going to crash; the power is going to go out,” Geddis said. “It’s going to happen, and we’re working to resolve the issues.”

Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Beth Yacobi said 292 calls were made to the help desk Tuesday with district employees spending 22.2 hours on the phone. On Wednesday, the help desk received an additional 244 phone calls and retrieved 103 voicemails before another 100 voicemails came in, with employees spending 19.9 hours on the phone.

One of the biggest issues was resetting the password on the Chromebooks the district issued to the students. District employees fielded 1,393 calls Tuesday and another 932 calls Wednesday helping parents and students to reset passwords.

Yacobi added that a total of 2,354 Chromebooks have been distributed since Aug. 25 to most of the remote-learning students who needed one. The district is still waiting on a Chromebook order to come in for kindergarten through second-grade students who are remote learning. Yacobi said those Chromebooks are expected to be delivered at the end of the month.

As the start of the new school year approached, Geddis said more parents opted to switch their child to remote learning. Currently, 3,911 students districtwide participate in remote learning, whereas 724 K-4 students are attending school in person.

Board member Darlene Halloran said she wanted to know how many of the 3,911 remote-learning students had logged in and attended their classes this week.

Danville High School Principal Tracy Cherry reported that student attendance on the remote-learning platform has been far better than in the spring.

“Teachers were very excited because they were missing only a few kids,” she said. “One had 23 out of 25 students logged in, and another had 26 out of 28 students in attendance.

“The numbers have been really good compared to the spring,” Cherry said.

Halloran asked what would happen if students stopped logging in and attending remotely.

“Teaching assistants and other members of the support staff will be out ringing doorbells,” Geddis said.

As for the 724 students who are attending school in person, the district is taking every precaution to maintain a healthy environment.

Seth Oldfield, who is with the buildings and grounds department, said the district recently received 350 cases of disinfectant wipes that were distributed districtwide two weeks ago when teachers began arriving to set up their classroom.

Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education John Hart said students are having their temperature checked as they board the school bus and a sticker is displayed on their clothing so they do not have to be rechecked when they enter the school building.

Board member Shannon Schroeder asked what would happen if Illinois reverted to stricter COVID-19 guidelines that would prevent in-person learning, as well as what would happen if the pandemic ended.

“We only have 724 kids learning in-person so we would move those kids to remote learning if Illinois went back to Phase 3,” Geddis said. “If the pandemic ends, we would come back in person at a break or the beginning of a new quarter.”

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