Superintendent's Corner

Avoca School District 37 - December 13, 2021

In this issue...

  • COVID Update - Keeping Schools Safe & Open
  • Vandalism at Marie Murphy - Help Us Find Those Responsible
  • Threats to School Security - Steps Our Schools Take
  • Community Engagement & Strategic Planning - Update

COVID Update: Keeping Schools Safe & Open

In the last three weeks, COVID rates have increased in suburban Cook County and in our local zip codes. (In recent days there has been a small drop. You can always monitor the COVID data at this site, click here.)

Avoca students have also experienced more cases of COVID in the last 10 days of school.

Through contact tracing, quarantining for those required to do so per Cook County Health Department (CCDPH) guidelines, and through the use of a test-to-stay program for those eligible, we have been able to minimize the number of students missing school and we have not had to shut down any classrooms or grades.

In fact, we have no evidence to-date that there has been any transmission in the schools. Furthermore, our contract tracing more often indicates that transmission to students occurred at events outside of school in households or in situations where masks, social distancing, and/or a lack of vaccination was a factor.

For the coming Winter Break, please do your best to:

  • Avoid large gatherings, especially where social distancing and masking is not an option or where large numbers of unvaccinated individuals might be present;
  • Get vaccinated, or if you are exposed;
  • Isolate so you do not potentially expose others.

The Administration and school nurses understand that the current set of guidelines and rules can be confusing and frustrating. We are doing our best to follow these guidelines in a way that allow us to keep as many students attending school as safely as we can.

Your actions over Winter Break and upon returning from Break will play a predominant role in our safe return to school in the New Year. Avoca is looking to set up a testing clinic shortly after the return from Winter Break, so please monitor communications from the District about this.

If your child is at all symptomatic on January 2, keep them home until they are tested and symptoms dissipate.

Vandalism at Marie Murphy - Help Us Find Those Responsible

Sadly, on Friday night, December 3 at approximately 9:10 p.m., someone in a blue sedan vandalized the new soccer fields at Marie Murphy with their car. The damage to the fields will run into many thousands of dollars. As painful as the damage to fields and the financial loss is the intentional harm that the vandal perpetrated upon our school and community.

We have filed a police report. We did share video with the police, which you can see below. Note that at the end of the video, as the car was preparing to exit the property, it did stop for someone walking on Illinois Rd, likely someone from the neighborhood.

If you have any information that could help find this vandal, please contact Officer Valerie Davis at the Wilmette Police Department at 847-251-2700.

Threats to School Security - Steps Schools Take

Since the tragic school shooting in Oxford, Michigan, I have received a small number of inquiries regarding our school safety protocols.

It should be noted that the Administration does not publicly share details of those protocols because to do so could actually jeopardize the very security we are trying to ensure.

However, please know that we have established a Threat Assessment Protocol and that we review that internally and with local law enforcement annually.

Additionally, we conduct one drill per year focused on a potential active shooter scenario, and we conduct that drill with local law enforcement present.

Finally, we do employ web filters that can alert us if students on our school district servers or devices use language that suggest they might harm themselves or others.

The steps above are reviewed annually with law enforcement and/or our technology security advisors. Our greatest resource for safe schools is an environment where students feel they have a trusted adult to whom they can turn, whether they themselves are in trouble or they have identified another student who is in trouble and could harm themselves or others. This is why our adults work so hard to foster good relationships and build in our students the ability to speak out when they perceive a problem.

Advance Avoca: Community Engagement & Strategic Planning

Our Strategic Planning Committee of more than 25 stakeholders met on December 8 to review the focus group data that had been collected since October 20th. There were more than 40 pages of notes organized by our consultant from Hazard Young Attea (HYA) and the committee spent well over an hour engaged in activities designed to distill that particular data into a comprehensible and usable form. Now, our consultant will refine the work resulting from our meeting and bring it back for further Committee discussion on January 12th.

In the meantime, HYA will finalize the collected survey data into a report for the Committee's January 12 meeting and for presentation to the Board of Education on January 20th, at which time it will be shared with the whole community.

These are important steps as the Committee drafts a "Portrait of a Graduate" and the Goals and Objectives for a Strategic Plan. Additionally, regarding both of these steps, there will be future opportunity for feedback from students, staff, parents/guardians, and community members before anything is finalized by the Board of Education in late April or May.