Taft LSC holds virtual meeting; Chromebooks made available for remote learning
by BRIAN NADIG
Taft High School has loaned about 450 Chromebooks to students as part of its remote learning program.
Taft principal Mark Grishaber said that he expects the actual number of students without a computer at home is much lower than 450, but one may not be enough, according to Taft principal Mark Grishaber. “You can’t have three kids on one device from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.,” he said at the April 14 meeting of the Taft High School Local School Council.
The meeting was held virtually, as council members and the public could participate by logging into Hangouts Meet by Google or dialing in via telephone. Due to the pandemic, Governor J.B. Pritzker has waived a portion of the Illinois Open Meetings Act which required a quorum of members to be physically present at a meeting location.
Grishaber said that the school, which has an enrollment of about 3,700, will be calling students who are “not engaged” in their remote learning classes. Paper packets are available to students who lack Internet access at their home, and students can access Taft’s WiFi by doing their work from inside their car while it is parked at the school, he said.
In some “hardship” instances students are working at a fast-food restaurant or store instead of participating in remote learning because their parents lost their job, Grishaber said after the meeting. “I have a couple of kids who are the bread winner for their family at this time,” he said.
LSC parent member Chris Raguso expressed concern about the missed classroom time for students due to the teacher’s strike last fall and the current pandemic. “Do we have any idea how far back are our students?” she asked.
Grishaber said after the meeting that it is difficult to quantify the negative impact of having the school building closed but that there are benefits to online instruction.
“It’s a double-edge sword. Some kids I believe are better at e-learning than going to class,” Grishaber said, adding that online classes are common in college. “It’s actually going to be beneficial to them as far as college goes.”
Also at the meeting, student LSC representative Liam O’Shea said that students were interested in the lights being turned at the varsity campus’ sports field on Friday evenings for 20 minutes as a tribute to first responders. Permanent lights were recently installed on the multi-purpose field.
Grishaber said that the school is planning other ways to honor frontline crisis workers. He added that while the lights would serve as “a beacon of hope” during the health crisis, it could lead to a gathering of students and others in violation of social distancing requirements.
The school recently created a flier honoring the pandemic’s frontline crisis workers. It includes lyrics from the hit song “Saturday in the Park,” which was released in 1972 by the band Chicago, whose lead guitarist was 1964 Taft graduate Terry Kath.
O’Shea also reported that some students need to retrieve items from their lockers, but Grishaber said that it is not known when students would be granted access.
The following also was reported at the meeting:
“They are actually going under each desk and getting the gum off,” Grishaber said of the school’s deep cleaning.
About 22,000 meals have been given to school families since Taft was closed. “We are a little more than 1,000 meals a day,” Grishaber said, adding that three days of meals are given at a time for each student.
About $35,000 was raised at the “Taft Night Out” fundraiser, but some of the auction items were for events which have since been canceled due to the pandemic and those funds will be returned, LSC community member Anita Bernacchi said. The Taft Parent-Teacher-Student Association sponsored the March 6 fundraiser.
A Taft alum has expressed interest in donating $200,000 to pay for improvements to the school’s weight room, according to LSC chairwoman Kathy Fern.
The LSC approved about $20,000 for planned landscaping, which includes new trees and bushes.
The council is waiting for an update on when the citywide LSC elections will be held, Fern said. The elections had been scheduled for April 22 and 23 but were postponed due to the pandemic.
For the second year in a row Taft has been named to U.S. News and World Report’s list of “Best High Schools.”
The next LSC meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 12.