District 202’s Director of Digital Learning, PSHS staff describe second semester E-learning as new Google classrooms roll out


Remote learning poses issues ranging from peer to peer and teacher to student connection. In order to meet the times, District 202 issued laptops for its enrolled students. The future, however, offers hope as a hybrid system is rolling out in the first few weeks of February.

James McNulty, Staff Writer

The Google classrooms of thousands of District 202 students will be archived on the very first day of second semester as students and staff express difficulty adjusting to the many technological changes so far this school year.

Phil Pakowski, Plainfield South Associate Principal, leads the discussion surrounding the changes as he hopes to help South’s staff with the plans for online learning. There was a bit of confusion and questions among the building’s teachers, he admits. Pakowski attempts to clarify the reason behind the changes.

“The way the classes are set up in e-school, they are set up in semester, even if some of them are year long courses, they actually have a different code for semester one and semester two. And students can’t be enrolled in both classes at the same time,” Pakowski said.

In short, the decision to enroll students into the new Google classrooms was the only solution to the technical issue.

The change should not be big for students at South, District 202’s Director of Digital Learning and Innovation Laura Weed explains.
Weed said the admission of each student into their respective classes is going to be automatic.

“The way that we have it just like you had for first semester is that when you open up your google classroom homepage where all your classes appear, it will just appear, and they will have indicators basically saying they are second semester classrooms, so all students will actually start to see their classrooms the middle of [the second week of January] because we have 26,000 students across the district,” Weed said.

Weed states there is a lot of work that goes behind it, which is the reason for the delay and why students will see second semester classes prior to the start of the second term. According to Weed, there have been many steps taken for the district to adapt new technologies for District 202, which have only been established even sooner than projected, due to the pandemic and the current online learning plan.

Weed said there has been great impact on the district’s technology plan since early Spring.

“I took this job and it was a new position as director of digital learning last year, so this is my second year. And so taking on this job, the goal is to have every student have a computer in five years. Well, with remote learning, everyone got a computer pretty quickly in regards to that, and so we have really changed our philosophy of overall the traditional classroom to more of what we would call a blended model,” Weed said.

Though the district is still all remote, Weed explains there is the plan to return back to in-person learning soon. Students will bring their own computers with them where they will be able to utilize them in class rather than over zoom. Weed said there will be a lasting impact due to this technology as the district’s plans to utilize features like google classroom will continue to make learning as resourceful as possible for students.

This newfound change for the district holds a lasting impact not only on district personnel usage, but how its teachers and students now view learning.

Physical Education (PE) teacher Shelly Fenoglio expresses concern for her two PE classes and three health classes based upon first semester experiences. Every student and staff member in District 202 only began their remote learning journey in the Spring of 2020. Although she understands uncertainty may lie ahead for students across the district, Fenoglio said she feels the “majority of students adjusted quite well with utilizing Google Classrooms.”

Fenoglio said some students were able to get an idea of what Google Classroom was all about last Spring, but many were new to it this year. Despite the setbacks, Fenoglio looks ahead with hope.

“I am proud of all my students for doing the absolute best that they can,” Fenoglio said.

The district continues its efforts to adapt an online learning plan to ensure a quality educational experience for everyone, but there is still something missing with interaction between teachers and students in e-learning, according to English teacher Jeff Jarot.

“I still miss being in the presence of [my students], you know? There’s really no substitute for that, and especially for seniors. I really feel for them in that regard, because you can only do so much over a computer, and I am thankful that we can work together over a computer screen, but I’m hoping that we can safely return sometime this semester even if it’s for just a little bit because I like being in the presence of you guys. That is such an important element of teaching, but I think it’s working very well, given the restrictions of it all,” Jarot says.

With plans from the district to test a hybrid learning system, many students are optimistic about returning to school. However, the future for District 202’s plans remain fluid alongside COVID protocol and safety standards.