The rites of spring for students – homeruns, relay races, prom dresses, and the tossing of mortarboard caps -- have been canceled or postponed in Illinois.


It is now official: school classes and athletic competitions will not resume in Illinois for the remainder of the current school year to continue social distancing to fight the spread of coronavirus.


Gov. J.B. Pritzker has announced all Illinois public and private schools will remain closed for the remaining weeks of the 2019-20 school year. The Illinois High School Association also decided last week all spring sports tournaments have been canceled and all summer contact activities suspended until state government and medical experts decide such group gatherings are safe, which could have an effect on football and other fall sports.


With the spread of COVID-19 continuing in Illinois, both decisions are based on the health risks to students, athletes, coaches and spectators if classes resume and athletic practices and contests started up again. The lockdown of schools and postponement of athletics started in March and there was hope both restrictions could finally end by April 30. Many school districts had been canceling or postponing other activities like proms, awards ceremonies, spring concerts and graduations. It is uncertain for now when some of those events can be rescheduled, especially graduations for seniors.


The school shutdowns and postponements have been disappointing for all students in Jasper County public schools and St. Thomas Catholic School, but especially Newton Community High School seniors losing out on the several weeks of the spring semester. This is a disappointing way to end a high school career.


School districts across the state have been dealing with the order through remote learning efforts. Jasper County Community Unit 1 has initiated different efforts through the internet, including a show featuring personnel at Newton Elementary School. Teachers have geared up for providing learning over the internet and families have adjusted, too, to turn households into learning centers.


There have also been efforts to provide meals to students with school cafeterias closed. School cooks, staff and volunteers have been involved the meals distributions. Some local businesses have also pitched in on the meal efforts.


With no clear sign of when COVID-19 will peak in Illinois, the extension of the school closures was considered inevitable. On Thursday, April 23, Gov. Pritzker announced he would extend the statewide stay-at-home order to May 30 and relaxed some restrictions on businesses and state parks.


2020 will be remembered as the year of the pandemic. But it did not shut down learning or Eagle Pride in Jasper County.