Superintendent's Corner 😁🏫😁

Avoca School District 37

In this issue...

  • Survey Results - Reopening School
  • Survey Release on Wednesday - 2nd Quarter Learning Schedule Preference
  • Parent Teacher Conferences - Calendar & Scheduling Details
  • Food Service Changes
  • Board of Education Elections
  • Portrait of a Graduate - Designing the Future
  • A detailed explanation of COVID-19 Exclusion & Return Steps

Survey Results - Reopening School

Thanks to the 86 staff members, over 200 students (grades 4-8), and over 450 parents & guardians who responded to our survey about reopening school. Feedback is the essential ingredient to identifying what is going well and what needs to be improved. A 30+ page summary report will be sent out Thursday, prior to the Board of Education meeting that will provide a window into our community's experience around returning to school in these extraordinary circumstances. Essentially, after having reinvented school in the Spring of 2020, our teachers, administrators, students and families have done so again - now having established the equivalent of three schools operating simultaneously. No small feat. The broad conclusions in the report reveal:

Positive Results related to:

  • Safety
  • Instruction
  • Communications
  • Technology
  • Student Stress
  • Engagement (onsite)

Areas for Growth Related to:
  • Engagement (for specific remote learners)
  • More structured time on 'remote' days
  • Better use of IXL platform
  • Student workload (developmentally appropriate)
  • Support for IEP, 504, and EL students
  • Clarity in COVID communications
  • Help staff manage stress

None of these broad positive conclusions means that area should not continue to receive attention, or that individual students and staff do not have needs which need to be met. Likewise not all the areas of growth can be tackled at one time. Through administrative steps, professional learning support for staff, and other steps, the District will make improvements across the board as time passes.

Survey Release - 2nd Quarter Learning Schedule Preferences

The Administration initially asked that families select a learning schedule for the duration of 1st quarter. The start of 2nd quarter is the first week of November. This Wednesday, I will release a straightforward and brief survey to determine what schedule you will seek for your student for 2nd quarter, which ends January 15.

Due to metrics that guide student learning schedules and capacity to support the different schedules, and for the sake of learning continuity, the options for 2nd quarter will remain fully remote, hybrid for grades 2-8, and four days per week onsite for K-1. Wholesale schedule changes will be contemplated for 2nd semester. Additional staff, parent, and student feedback will be solicited prior to any wholesale changes.

For families seeking a change in schedule, please know that doing so now (or in January) could affect and be affected by a number of factors, depending on the choices other families make. Specifically:

  • While onsite classes are size limited to due COVID prevention, some onsite class sizes could increase, and remote class sizes can be larger than normal onsite classes;
  • Large shifts in enrollment could precipitate a reassignment of staff from remote to onsite, vice versa, or into different subject areas;
  • Students who make no schedule change could still have a different teacher for 2nd quarter.

The onset of COVID ushered in a period of uncertainty. The District has done its best to establish as much stability as possible, even while trying to be responsive to student, staff, and family needs. The survey will stay open from Wednesday, October 7 through Tuesday, October 14.

Parent Teacher Conferences - Calendars and Schedules

This upcoming week, the principals will communicate more about Parent Teacher Conferences, which take place on Wednesday, October 21 and Thursday, October 22. On these days, school will run from 8 to 11 at Marie Murphy and from 9 to Noon at Avoca West. Conferences start at 3 p.m.

Conferences will be held via Zoom and the principals will send out the links for scheduling this week. Related to conferences and 2nd quarter learning schedules, also note that:

  • Friday, October 23 is an already scheduled Institute Day (no student attendance)
  • Monday, October 26 will be a non-attendance day for Remote Learning Planning. This will be a key day for staff to adjust and collaborate around schedule changes and possible reassignments for 2nd quarter, which begins a week later.

Food Service Changes Begin October 12

Beginning October 12 our schools will be participating in a new Federal food service program that will make it possible to offer a lunch to every student at no charge and to provide food service for any family in the Avoca community who is facing food insecurity at home.

This does mean that the lunch menu will be eliminated. There will just be one lunch option for students (lunch responsive to dietary and allergy needs will be available).

The District is moving to this program for a number of reasons. Foremost, it will enable the District to provide every student a lunch at no charge and to provide every needy family meals to take home. By participating in this program, the District will be able to provide this service while greatly reducing an operating deficit in its Food Service program.

Of course, any one can opt out of this program and continue to bring their own lunch.

Please be on the lookout for an email with more details from Beth Dever, the District's Chief School Business Official.

Board Elections in April 2021

A vibrant community and successful school district are made so through the democratic process. Four board member positions are up for election at the April 6, 2021 Consolidated Elections.

At this time candidates may start circulating nominating petitions. Those petitions, meeting all the legal guidelines, must be submitted to the County Clerk no later than December 21, 2020.

You can find more information at the Cook County Clerk's website - 2021 Info for Candidates - by clicking here.

Portrait of a Graduate - Are you ready?

"Portrait of a Graduate" is a process developed by a national educational non-profit organization. It is designed to help communities create unique "North Stars" around which school communities can design important changes.

Specifically, before we engage in strategic planning for the future of Avoca School District 37, we will come together to identify our North Star, meaning those qualities in students we want to foster for their own, our community's, and the wider world's betterment. Such an endeavor could scarcely be more important than it is right now.

Next week, I will share a schedule for interested parents/guardians, students, community members, and staff to participate in the process, whether it be as a committee member or a focus group participant. If you think you might be interested in participating, please be on the lookout for this communication or even send me an email.

Once adopted, that will guide our community's strategic planning in the 2021-22 school year. If you would like to learn more about the Portrait of a Graduate process, please visit their website, where you can learn more and see examples from other districts.

COVID Exclusion & Return

As we have started school, and as the Cook County Department of Public Health and Illinois Department of Public Health have adapted to guiding schools through managing during COVID, the guidance about how to exclude and return to school Covid-positive, close contacts, or symptomatic students and staff has evolved (repeatedly).

Below is a link to a revised document that I hope aids our understanding of the steps we take. Please note one important factor: If someone in a household is symptomatic (even if they have not tested positive), then everyone in the household should stay home. This is most important regarding siblings. If one sibling (student) is symptomatic, then all siblings should stay home from school.

Click here to learn more.