3/17- District 123 School Closure Update – Letter from the Superintendent

March 17, 2020 – The following is a letter that was sent from Superintendent Paul Enderle to the District123 community regarding recent school closure and coronavirus information.

Dear District 123 Families,

Thank you for your continued patience and support as we work together as a community to keep everyone safe. I appreciate your efforts at home in helping provide our students with a continuity of education during this closure period. We would appreciate you devoting the time to read through each point below. District 123 will continue to send timely communications as information becomes available.

School Closure Information:
On the afternoon of Friday, March 13, 2020, School District 123 closed all schools in order to protect the health and wellness of our students, our staff and their families. We wanted to do our part in the nationwide movement to exercise the practice of “Social Distancing” to limit the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. In the hours following, Governor Pritzker, declared all Illinois K-12 schools closed from March 17 through March 30. The order from the Governor places District 123’s earliest possible return date to Tuesday, March 31, 2020. While we continue to operate with the March 31, 2020 date in mind, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has advised school districts to prepare for the possibility of an extension to the present closure.

ISBE has reported that March 17-30 will be considered “Act of God” days and will not need to be made up at the end of the year. School attendance is not required during Act of God days. Currently, the last day of school has not changed. It remains on June 4, 2020. Further information about future calendar dates, events, and activities are pending, however, all events scheduled during the present closure have been canceled.

Long-Term Remote Learning Plan:  
During the closure, we strive to best provide a ‘continuity of education’ to our students. The District 123 eLearning Plan as practiced on Monday, was never meant to deal with something like the pandemic that confronts us today. District 123 is working diligently on ways that we can continue to provide learning experiences for all District 123 students. This will look different from the eLearning that was completed on Monday.

eLearning Days are meant to:

  • Be short-term in nature. (Weather closures, snow days, building mechanical failures, etc.)
  • Be used in place of “Emergency” weather closure days (5 per school calendar year)
  • Include 5 hours of instructional time.
  • Have a clear start and end time during the day.
  • Consider student attendance, assignment expectations, and student work completion.
  • Allow students a 48-hour period after returning to school to complete work.
  • Include a 5-hour staff availability window in which families and students could connect in near real-time.

Long-term Remote Learning is intended to:

  • Provide a “continuity of education” for students during a long-term school closure using a D123 learning community approach to creating, gathering and distributing resources.
  • Be used for extended long-term closures or “Act of God” days that are consecutive in nature and beyond the intent of occasional “emergency” closure days.
  • Allow students and families to have flexibility over the types of learning and time dedicated to learning each day.
  • Allow for instructional staff to respond to student or family emails in a supportive yet flexible fashion.
  • Not create daily time expectations nor the establishment of clear start and end times.
  • Not consider student attendance, assignment expectations, and student work completion considerations.

Our intent with Long-Term Remote Learning will be to develop a systemic process to gather and curate instructionally appropriate resources for all District 123 students. Resources shared will be sent each day from your school principal during this closure. We do encourage families to email pictures or videos of students engaging in Long-Term Remote Learning.

Student Meal Distribution Plan:
All children who reside within our community including homeschooled students and students from our high schools and parochial partners will have the option to receive our “Grab and Go” meal package for the duration of our closure. This includes any child, ages 3-18.

District 123 will provide “Grab and Go” meal packages on weekdays at Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School, 5345 West 99th Street. Meal availability includes the week of spring break and will begin tomorrow, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Meals can be picked up from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM each weekday. Students do not need to sign up in advance to pick up a meal at school. No family will be charged for any meals received. To keep all of our families and staff members safe, we are asking that our meal pickups be contact-free. Those picking up meals should wait for a staff member to walk the meals out to your car. Please view the “Grab and Go” Pickup Map for directions on how to pick up meals.

Our Part, Our Children:
We know this new virus can make children anxious. Adults can always reassure children that health and school officials are working hard to ensure that people throughout the country stay healthy. In addition to the practice of “Social Distancing,” the CDC and Illinois Department of Public Health recommend the best way to protect against coronavirus is by taking the same everyday precautions against getting sick in general.

The National Association of School Psychologists has additional guidelines about talking to children about COVID-19.

Stay Connected:
Continue to remain calm, together, and informed. We encourage our families and our students to reach out to their teachers, principals, and the District Office with questions and concerns.  If you would like to email us closure-related questions use schoolclosing@d123.org. We have also recorded a Lunchtime Live Community update on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. This updated included information from above and a live Q&A.

Thank you for your continued flexibility and cooperation during this unprecedented time. We understand there are questions, concerns, and “what if” situations that will continue to surface. We ask that as needs arise, you stay in close communication with our school district. We will continue to provide routine updates as new information becomes available, so please remain connected with our school community.

Stay safe and healthy,

Paul J. Enderle, Superintendent