FILE - remote learning, remote teaching, Illinois, Virus Outbreak Illinois

Kelly Mack works on her laptop to teach remotely from her early 1940s vintage turquoise camper/trailer in her backyard at home in Evanston, Ill., Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. Mack teaches math at Nichols Middle School in Evanston.

(The Center Square) – Now that Illinois officials have unveiled a multi-billion dollar plan to support students' return to the classroom after months of remote learning, school superintendents around the state must now figure out how to spend the money headed for their districts.

The Learning Renewal Resource Guide, sent out to school districts this week, is a reference on how school officials can utilize their share of the $7 billion earmarked for the state.

State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen Ayala said the guide features two main categories that deal with social and emotional learning and academic growth.

“The Learning Guide outlines twelve strategies that can help serve as a starting point for local conversations about spending decisions,” Ayala said.

Barry Reilly, superintendent for Bloomington District 87 Schools, said the funds would go a long way to address learning loss.

“It certainly gives districts like ours a great shot in the arm to address the learning needs of kids, like expanding our summer programs and adding additional staff,” Reilly said.

Reilly’s district stands to receive more than $21 million from the American Rescue Plan Act. The largest total, $2.7 billion, goes to Chicago Public Schools.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a four-pronged approach to supporting schools, including a focus on high-impact tutoring and increasing enrollment in early childhood programs and higher education.

Meghan Whitaker from the National Center for Learning Disabilities said summer school may be needed, especially for kids with attention issues.

“Students who can safely return to school and receive that in-person instruction, I think that the summer might be a really important time for them to receive the instruction that they lost,” Whitaker said.

Whitaker applauds that $3 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act is dedicated to special education.

Staff Reporter

Kevin Bessler reports on statewide issues in Illinois for the Center Square. He has over 30 years of experience in radio news reporting throughout the Midwest.