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Chicago Company Hopes To Make Virtual Learning A Permanent Fixture In Some Schools

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Remote teaching has been the norm for the past nine months, with stories of groans and tears along the way. Even so, one Chicago company is hoping to make virtual learning a permanent fixture in some schools.

Morning Insider Lauren Victory goes inside the super remote concept.

As high schoolers read aloud teachers might might come up empty when asking for volunteers. Participation can be especially difficult when not all together in the classroom.

But in Homewood resident Sarena Lee's case, she is not even in the district, or the state. or the time zone. Her ninth graders live in Fountain Hills, Arizona.

"When I would assign work or give students deadlines, I would think about, 'What time should I tell the students?'" she said.

The English language arts instructor is one of thousands doing those clock conversions for Chicago-sed K-12 Elevate.

The live education company fills gaps from teacher shortages all over the country.

Historically they would've made the kids watch videos or would've had substitutes teach that class," said Elevate K-12 CEO Shaily Baranwal.

Baranwal gives other examples.

"Sauk Village School District. They wanted to offer Spanish immersion to their K-5 students," said Baranwal.

Their teacher live streams in from Puerto Rico.

"A lot of districts are competing for those candidates as well," said Waukegan District Associate Supt. Dr. Jason Nault.

Nault is talking about the challenge of finding local bilingual teachers for Waukegan schools.

He's using 20 Elevate K-12 instructors to cover vacancies.

"No disrespect to substitute teachers," Nault said. "They do an excellent job, but the don't have expertise in all the content areas that our students necessarily need."

On the flipside, virtual educators can enjoy the flexibility of working from home.

"It still remains really professional," said Lee. "I'm not doing laundry in the middle of the day."

Lee said it is strange to think she will never meet her students in person.

But Lee said the platform's private chat and polling features help her keep a pulse on what is going on 1,700 miles away.

Elevate K-12 takes care of the paperwork to make sure teachers licensed in one state can teach in another. Waukegan leaders say using the company's instructors is more costly than substitutes, but the guarantee of an expert in particular subjects makes it worth it.

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