The start of the school year Tuesday in Naperville District 203 lacked the traditional long line of cars outside the school, the tearful goodbyes at the bus stop, or the high-fives from principals as students entered the building when the school bell rang.

Instead District 203 students logged into their Chromebooks or iPads to communicate with their teachers.

“While the start to this school year looked different than the start to school in past years, it was still full of great excitement and enthusiasm,” Superintendent Dan Bridges said. “It was great to see our educators and students unite to kick off our year.”

Not everyone was connecting with the teachers from their homes. Some sixth- and seventh-graders started their school year virtually from a Naperville-based teen drop-in center.

Kandice Henning, founder and CEO of the Alive Center on Fifth Avenue, said she wasn’t sure if she and her staff could transform the drop-in center into a space for junior high students to learn remotely.

“I am happy how things turned out. I really feel like we’re meeting a need in the community,” Henning said.

Although e-learning programs for children in kindergarten through fifth grade were offered through the YMCA, Champions and the Naperville Park District, nothing was available for preteens in junior high school.

The school board urged District 203 administrators to search for a partner, like the Alive Center, that could offer supervised space for students in grades 6-8.

“We saw a need for our junior high students to have a place where they could participate in e-learning with access to resources while their parents worked,” said Stephanie Posey, assistant superintendent of secondary education, in a statement. “We are thankful for our partnership with the Alive Center and will provide technical support, as well as a Naperville 203 liaison to support our junior high learners.”

Henning took up the challenge, and within two weeks after the request by District 203, she had a plan in place.

Picture Source: Suzanne Baker / Naperville Sun

SOURCE ( Suzanne Baker / Chicago Tribune )