People work, kids learn from home during dangerous cold

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Many businesses and organizations closed and downtown Chicago looked like a ghost town Wednesday and Thursday.

Whether school or the office closed, or it was simply too cold to leave the house, people across the Chicago area opted to work and learn from home during the record cold.

Many businesses and organizations closed and downtown Chicago looked like a ghost town Wednesday and Thursday. But productivity may not have been lost even if the office wasn't open.

Roommates Matthew Serafin and Laura Hill work for different companies, but they shared a makeshift home office space - in their living room -and it seemed to be working out pretty well.

"I have not gone outside once in the last 24-36 hours and I've still been able to be very productive at the same time," Serafin said.

"Being able to screen share, I haven't missed too much," said Hill.

The cubicles were empty at Challenger Gray & Christmas, a firm that studies worker productivity, but most of their employees are also working from home. Experts there said in some ways that could increase productivity by not subjecting workers to hours in traffic, and letting them work on their own schedule, in which they may get more actual work done.

Though some experts are predicting the arctic freeze will cost companies millions, technology may mitigate these losses. Experts said with the weather keeping so many people home, companies that don't normally allow telecommuting may find it works better than they expected.

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It wasn't just employees working from home this week; one school district in Oak Brook made sure its students did too through digital lessons and high tech homework.



It wasn't just employees working from home this week; one school district in Oak Brook made sure its students did too through digital lessons and high tech homework.

Resham Mendi is a doctor by trade but Wednesday and Thursday the mother of four boys was their teacher. Butler School District 53 launched alternative learning days in which students must work from home as their classrooms and hallways sat empty due to the weather.

"It's been really interesting to see how seriously the kids are taking this, they really look at this as a full school day," Meni said.

Rian, a 6th grader, must turn in his assignments for a grade online by 9 p.m.

"It's a lot of work, but I think it's good thing because we don't have to make up school in June," he said.

"In terms of the district, these days count as school days because students and teachers are meaningfully engaged in activities," said Dr. Heidi Wennstrom, superintendent.

With a lot of preparation, teachers assigned a blend of online and creative activities, including science experiments.

"We were very careful about designing opportunities for students," said Dr. Chad Prosen, principal of Brook Forest Elementary School.

Mendi said not only does she have a great appreciation for teachers, but she's learned a lot about her kids.

"It's kind of neat insight into how my kids learn and what they do on a daily basis," she said.

And while learning from home in lieu of making up days at the end of the year was a hit with three of the Mendi boys, 4th grader Rohin said he'd rather be at school.

"I like school because I'd rather hang out with my friends," he said.

So far, the school district said, its social media feeds show positive feedback. It plans to conduct surveys in the next few days to determine if alternative learning was a success.
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