The Whittier Wildcat Word

Friday, March 11, 2022

A Message from Principal Robinson

Greetings Whittier Wildcats,

I hope this newsletter finds all our families doing well!

During the week, we engaged our scholars in conversations around the upcoming Mask Recommended - Not Required and other mitigation changes. It was amazing having the opportunity to engage in discussions with all of Whittier WIldcats. If you have not already done so, we encourage every family to have a conversation with their scholar(s) regarding your family's choice to wear a mask or not wear a mask. As stated during our presentation, we will "GIVE" and "GET" respect to our peers' choices. Below, within the newsletter, we have included our town hall presentation and other resources to help families start the conversation.

Have a great week!

In partnership,

Principal Robinson

Whittier School - Where I Belong!

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Celebrating Women History Month

If you are looking for ideas of how to celebrate outside of school, check out this excellent collection of books, programs, and special exhibits at Oak Park Public Library.

Upcoming Dates

March 2022 ( Women's History Month)

3rd - End of 2nd Trimester

7th - Morning Breakfast begins at 7:15

7th - Students line up at their new doors (designated drop off and pick up area has been revised)

15th - Institute Day - NO SCHOOL

15th - Board Meeting 7 pm

17th - St. Patrick's Day

17th - Mask-Recommended, but Not Required for D97 Schools

18th - Report Cards go home


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Whittier Wildcat Word Staff Spotlight

One of our goals this year is to strengthen the relationship between home and school. In particular, findings ways for the Whittier community to know the staff at Whittier. Therefore, each week, we will randomly pick a staff member from an envelope to spotlight.

Staff Spotlight - Mrs. McComb-Williams - Assistant Principal

1. Hello! My Name is Chasity McComb-Williams

2. I am.. the first Assistant Principal of Whittier and prior to being here, I was the Student Support Specialist and one of the Title 1 Tutors for reading and math. I have been at Whittier for 15 years.

3. My favorite color is...PURPLE!
4. What I like most about Whittier is...our students help take care of one another, including the adults. We are a caring community!

5. If I had a SuperPower it would be to multiply myself so I will be able to be everywhere at the same time and have my to-do list cleared at the end of each day.

6. If I was an animal I would be a GIRAFFE because it is the tallest living animal, making it unique!

7. What advice would you give the scholars of Whittier? The advice I would give my scholars is to treat others the way they want to be treated even when no one is looking.

Morning Breakfast is BACK Beginning March 7th, 2022! (Cold Options Only)

    • Breakfast will be served in the lunchroom from 7:15 -7:50 am each morning (cold Options Only).
    • Enter through the mini-gym doors on the blacktop.

Whittier's COVID Mitigations *UPDATED*

We are reaching out with a few updates going into effect on Monday, March 7, 2022.

Monday, March 7, 2022

  • Breakfast starts in our Whittier Cafeteria at 7:15 am

    • Students arriving for breakfast should enter the 5W door (located directly across the playground)
    • Students will be able to enter directly at 7:15 am. Due to supervision, students will not be able to enter before 7:15 am.

  • Arrival/Dismissal Updates

  • All classes will enter the building and dismiss from the blacktop during Arrival/Drop-off. Students will no longer enter the building through the Harvey entrances before 8 am. Teachers will communicate and show students the new lineup location before school on Monday.

  • Traffic Flow/Student Safety
    • School buses are the only vehicles allowed on the 700 block of Harvey for student drop-off. Take note of new signage on the west side of the 700 block on Harvey, designating the bus loading area.
    • The 700 block of Cuyler will be one-way, northbound, during school drop-off and pick-up times, assisting families who drive students to school. The 700 block of Cuyler has signage noting the drop-off/pick-up status from 7 am-4 pm on all school days.
    • The area around our school is bustling at the beginning of the day and at dismissal time. We encourage our students to walk to and from school.
    • If you are driving your child to and from school, the following are the designated drop-off/pick-up areas:

600 Block of North Cuyler Avenue

700 Block of North Cuyler Avenue

600 Block of North Harvey Avenue (South of Augusta)

Effective Monday, February 28, 2022

  • Student drop off and pick up
    • Masks will be optional outdoors for families and students during drop-off and pick-up.
    • Mask is still required to enter the school building.
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5th Grade Outdoor Education Opportunity

As you know, Covid-19 restrictions prompted the cancellation of our normal outdoor education trip to Camp Edwards in November. However, we have good news to share with you! On Thursday, March 24th, students will participate in a modified version of our Outdoor Education Program: Snake Road, facilitated by staff from Covenant Harbor! Like many other D97 schools, we have partnered with Covenant Harbor to provide our scholars with a full-day outdoor education experience. A team from Covenant Harbor will travel to Oak Park to facilitate their Snake Road Program.

Trained facilitators will guide each group through sequential, interdisciplinary outdoor activities that build community, expand awareness and understanding of nature and each other, develop problem-solving abilities and get students excited about learning. The day will start at Taylor Park, with facilitators leading whole group icebreakers and moving into teams to participate in team-building and low ropes events. Each event will consist of simple to moderate group problem-solving activities. The facilitator will present the initiative to the groups and groups will have time to plan and implement solutions to each exercise. The entire day will be facilitated outdoors.

The cost for the event will be $50 and is posted on REVTRAK (Whittier FT Outdoor Education 03/24/22 (Grade 5). Please sign and return the waiver going home today for your child to participate and make the $50 payment via REVTRAK no later than March 22th.

More detailed information on the day's events will be sent closer to the date. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns!

The 5th Grade Team

Whittier Advocacy Fund- Family Support Survey

At Whittier, we want to support each student as best we can during these challenging times. Our PTO received financial funds from an anonymous donor that we can use to support our students and families in need.

If you are in need of additional support, please take a few minutes to help us better understand how we can support your family's current needs by filling out a google form ( If your child is identified as needing additional support, someone from our school will be in touch with you within the week. Please fill this out for EACH child in your family. Thank you in advance.

Please note - ALL these responses will be kept confidential and can only be accessed by school social workers, the assistant principal, and the principal.

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Week of March 7th

This week our kindergarten - third grade students learned about the Touching Rule. The Touching Rule specifies that no one should touch a child’s private body parts except to keep them healthy. Our fourth and fifth grade students took this lesson a step further and learned about the Private Body Parts Rule which adds that you should never touch someone else’s private body parts, and no one should ask to look at your private body parts or show you theirs or anyone else's either in person or electronically. These lessons also stress the importance of knowing the correct anatomical names for body parts, which helps children be better able to report and disclose abuse. The home links for these lessons can be found below:

Kindergarten- The Touching Rule

First Grade- The Touching Rule

Second Grade- The Touching Rule

Third Grade- The Touching Rule
Fourth Grade- The Private Body Parts Rule

Fifth Grade- The Private Body Parts Rule

*ACTION REQUIRED - PLEASE* 5Essential Parent Survey for Whittier - We Need Your Feedback, Please Take Today!

This is a reminder that the 2022 Illinois Parent Survey opened on January 11, 2022. The survey window will close on March 11, 2022, so please plan survey administration accordingly.

Link for parents to take the survey:

The survey opens on January 11, 2022, and closes on March 11, 2022.

District 97 Adopts 5-Day Isolation/Quarantine Guidelines

The Oak Park Department of Public Health officially adopted the new guidelines for schools. As a result, District 97 will utilize the reduced isolation and quarantine times, effective immediately.

(NEW) IMPORTANT: Calling Your Child In Sick from School

Please support Nurse Winkelhake by LEAVING A REASON when you call your child in sick from school. Our nurse follows up on every absence call when a specific reason is not provided. If your child is staying home due to reasons unrelated to COVID-19, sharing that information in the message helps the nurse determine whether a call is necessary. When calling please slowly state:

  1. Your Name
  2. Your Child’s Name
  3. Your Child’s Grade and Homeroom/Advisory Teacher
  4. Reason for the Absence
  5. Best phone number to reach you
We appreciate your assistance with this process!

(NEW) Communicating COVID Positive Cases to Families

To effectively streamline our Covid related procedures and policies, starting the week of January 17, all communications regarding positive student cases and close contacts will happen vis email. Due to the number of cases and the amount of contact tracing, we will no longer be able to call all families of positive cases or close contacts. Please continue to check your email regularly for communications from the school.

All communications will have detailed information regarding the following steps, quarantine/return dates, and other pertinent information. If families have additional questions after receiving a communication, please continue to reach out with questions and concerns. We hope the adaptive format and procedures will help us as a school community better mitigate the spread of covid and better serve our students, staff, and community.

Submit Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination After Second Dose

According to the Centers for Disease Control and state/local health officials, fully vaccinated individuals do not have to quarantine due to potential COVID-19 exposure as long as they are asymptomatic. Additionally, achieving a high rate of vaccination will strengthen our overall safety plan and will put the district in the best possible position to reconsider other mitigations as conditions improve in our community.

To help us reduce any unnecessary quarantines and accurately track our student vaccination rate, District 97 requests that families submit proof of vaccination for their students as soon as they have received their second dose. There are two options:

  • IF YOU HAVE A GOOGLE ACCOUNT: Fill out a brief Google Form and upload a copy of the student’s vaccination card. CLICK HERE to access the Whittier vaccine form.

  • IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A GOOGLE ACCOUNT: Email a copy of your student’s vaccination card to Nurse Hilary Winkelhake ( Please include the child’s full name and grade.

Students Who Participated in Clinics at District 97 Schools
If your student completed their vaccine series at one of the school-based clinics, a staff member should have taken a photo of their vaccination card following the second dose.

  • If your child's card was documented, no further action is needed.

  • If your child's card was not scanned or photographed, or if your child did not receive their second dose at a school clinic, please email a copy of the card to your school nurse.

If you have any questions, please contact Nurse Hilary. Thank you for your support and partnership in keeping our schools safe!

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Could your child benefit from extra practice in math?

Most students could, so several PTOs in Oak Park are collaborating to offer a 6-week

program to give 2nd through 5th graders a boost in math, starting the week of April

11th. Weekly sessions will be led by D97 teachers over Zoom and are meant to

supplement in-school instruction. Students from any elementary school in Oak Park are

welcome. Total cost is $72 for the sessions. Financial aid is available for those who

need it.

For more information and to register by March 26, visit

Bravo Summer Camp

Register For Bravo Summer Camp Today!
3-Week Sessions for Actors: June 13 - July 2 & July 5 - July 23
2-Week Sessions for Crew: June 20 - July 2 & July 11 - July 23

Open to Current 4th - 8th Graders
Registration Deadline - March 12, 2022
Register Here

Chicago Wolves Family Day Event March 13

Join Whittier students, teachers, families, alumni, and friends for an afternoon of fun at a Chicago Wolves hockey game at the Allstate Arena. Everyone will be seated together in the same section and receive a FREE Chicago Wolves hat. Learn More

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Housing Choice Voucher Program Opens March 14

For the first time in 18 years, the Oak Park Housing Authority (OPHA) will be opening its Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) waiting list. OPHA will be accepting pre-applications to add 150 new households to the HCV waiting list.
  • Pre-applications can be accessed and submitted through an online portal reached directly through the OPHA website (
  • Pre-applications can be completed anytime between 8:30 a.m. on Monday, March 14 and 3:00 p.m. on Friday, March 25
The HCV Program (formerly known as Section 8) is a program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that is administered through local housing authorities. The HCV Program provides vouchers to qualifying very-low-income households to help them pay their monthly rent. Households possessing a voucher generally pay approximately 30% of their monthly income toward their rent, and the Housing Choice Voucher program pays the remaining amount that is owed for a qualifying rental unit. CLICK HERE for more information regarding the Housing Choice Voucher Program, including eligibility requirements >>

Celebrating Women's History Month in District 97

Women’s History Month is a celebration of all that women bring to history, culture and society. In March, we'd love your help capturing how our classes, schools and families are centering and honoring women. We encourage you to share your Women's History Month stories, photos and videos with us by tweeting (@OakPark97, using the hashtags #MyD97 and #OakPark97) or emailing Thank you in advance for helping to shine a light on the incredible lives, histories and contributions of women.

District 97 to Continue Nut-Free Lunches

All District 97 schools are currently operating as nut-safe facilities to ensure student safety. This has been a critical measure in protecting our students with severe nut allergies, particularly during a time in which our lunch procedures have an added layer of complexity due to COVID-19.

As the district eases mitigations in the coming weeks, and as we prepare for the return of hot lunch after spring break, we are mindful that schools may continue to utilize classrooms and/or modified lunch procedures. In order to maintain safe environments for all of our students, all of our schools will continue to be nut-safe. Please assist us in this endeavor by refraining from sending your child to school with nuts or nut-related products for lunch or snacks.

Please contact your child’s school nurse if you have questions about the safety of any food products that you may be considering sending to school with your child. Thank you for your support with this preventative measure!

Supporting the Transition to Masks Recommended, Not Required

Dear District 97 Staff and Families,

As we previously shared, all District 97 schools will move to an environment that recommends, but does not require, mask wearing in school buildings beginning March 17, 2022.

District and building leadership teams have been planning and preparing for this change throughout the week. This included collaborating with our climate and culture coaches to create lesson plans for students, ensuring that plans and resources are in place for students and staff who are immunocompromised, meeting with teachers and support staff to address their concerns and prepare them for classroom conversations on masks, and compiling resources to share with families.

We want to share as much information as possible with you now in order to help you and your student(s) prepare for this transition. In the coming days, principals will be engaging with their students, staff and families to communicate information that may be specific to their buildings. We will continue to provide regular updates about the district’s COVID-19 mitigations via email and will maintain an FAQ for common questions that arise.

Masks Recommended, Not Required - March 17

Beginning Thursday, March 17, the decision to wear a mask at school will be at the discretion of each family. On that date, masks will become recommended, not required, in all District 97 schools, the administration building, and school buses. This change also applies to after-school activities and events. Click here for an FAQ that addresses masking protocols.

Please be aware of four important points as we make this transition:

  • Schools will not segregate or seat students based on mask use or vaccination status.

  • Beyond reminding students to follow their family’s wishes, teachers and staff will not track parent wishes or monitor mask use of students.

  • Schools will not segregate students based on mask use.

  • Our COVID-19 testing partner, SHIELD Illinois, will continue to require masks in testing areas, since collection sites are technically considered healthcare facilities. This means that students participating in weekly SHIELD testing will be required to wear masks in the collection area only. The district will have disposable masks available, however, we encourage families to make sure that their students bring their own masks on their designated testing days.

District 97 recently provided staff and students with high-quality KN95 masks, and we will continue to have a large supply available for those who would like them. Surgical masks will be available throughout the buildings as well.

Supporting Immunocompromised Individuals

As we begin to ease COVID-19 mitigations in our schools, we are especially mindful of our students, staff and families who are immunocompromised or at greater risk for severe illness. As always, if you have any concerns about your child’s medical condition, please reach out to your school nurse.

The district’s safety plan will continue to include several important layers of protection, including weekly SHIELD testing, proper ventilation, social distancing, daily cleaning and disinfection, and frequent hand washing (click here for a summary of current mitigations). The district currently has a large supply of high-quality KN95 masks in both adult and children’s sizes, which may be utilized to provide extra protection during the school day. Please contact your school principal if you are in need of additional masks.

The updated CDC guidance includes recommendations and resources for individuals who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe illness. They have also created a web page, “Families and COVID-19,” that contains helpful information and tips for making decisions and keeping your family safe. If you are seeking additional help, please reach out to your school and we will do our best to address your concerns and connect you with local resources.

Social-Emotional Supports and Family Resources

It is to be expected that there will be a range of emotions about our transition to “masks recommended and not required.” Students may be anxious, excited, apprehensive, or eager and those feelings may evolve as the transition sets in. Some of our students have never been in school without a mask, so for those students this will be a new experience.

As we move towards this transition, our emphasis is on the social-emotional needs of our students and supporting each other as a community. Our school staff will support classroom communities that encourage inclusiveness, belonging, and care. Our district Culture and Climate Coaches, in collaboration with our school-based PBIS/Culture and Climate teams, have designed resources to support classroom conversations, which will begin the week of March 7. They have also prepared resources for families to support the conversations that will happen at home to support students with this transition.

Regardless of a family’s decision about mask wearing, preparing your child for this change in their learning environment may put them at ease.

  • Communicate Kindness: You can help your child understand that the pandemic has caused many unknowns, and everyone is working to do what is best for their families. Being different is ok and respecting difference is an important part of our community. Another family’s decision may not be the same as their own and that is ok.

  • Clear Expectations: As we get closer to March 17th, depending on the developmental age and stage of your child, explain why your family has decided that wearing or not wearing a mask at school is best for them. Set clear expectations for your child’s behavior at school. Reinforce the need to respect differences. You may want to discuss with your child what respect looks like/sounds like.

  • Model and Practice Skills: If your child feels self-conscious about wearing or not wearing a mask, help them to put words to their feelings. You can develop a script with them and practice with them how to respond directly. For example, “I feel better wearing/not wearing a mask at school; what should we play at recess?”

  • Encourage Your Child to Speak Up: Remind your child that it is important to speak to an adult at school if they notice a student being mistreated or if they have been mistreated. Promoting a culture of mutual respect should include feeling safe to speak up. Help your child to identify a trusted adult(s) at school that they can go to.

School rules and behavior expectations remain the same: bullying is not tolerated. Our Bullying Report Form is available for students, staff, and families to report bullying behavior.

Additionally, it’s important that we prepare our students to be flexible should masks become required indoors again due to a state or local mask mandate or if we experience high transmission in our community, per CDC guidelines. This is not something that we want to happen. However, as we have experienced throughout the pandemic, we should expect the unexpected and be prepared to listen, learn and take action when necessary to address the safety of our students, staff and families.

We encourage all members of our district community to reinforce these messages with our students and to model the kindness, empathy and respect that we are teaching in our classrooms.


Dr. Griff Powell and Dr. Patricia Wernet

Co-Interim Superintendents

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Information about Acceleration Opportunities in District 97

Looking ahead to the spring, District 97 is preparing to implement the Single Subject and Whole Grade Level Acceleration process for students eligible for acceleration in the 2022-23 school year.

District 97 believes that all students should be challenged and supported to develop to their maximum potential. For students who demonstrate they may benefit from accelerated placement, we provide opportunities to participate in an instructional setting that is usually reserved for students who are older or in higher grades than the child. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Single subject acceleration
  • Whole grade acceleration

In accordance with the Illinois Accelerated Placement Act, District 97 has continued to refine procedures to ensure equitable access to acceleration opportunities for all students. New this year: all students who are grade eligible to take the Illinois Assessment for Readiness (IAR) must participate in the assessment in order to be deemed eligible for acceleration. The IAR is a critically important measure in determining the mastery of grade level standards and must be considered by the school team along with other sources of data.

Referrals for single-subject and whole-grade acceleration will be accepted from March 1 to May 15 of each school year. The general process is outlined HERE.

Information about the District 97 Accelerated Placement Program, including definitions and timelines, can be found at We will send additional communication to families as we near the opening of our referral and application windows next year. Additionally, Family Acceleration Night will be held Wednesday, February 7, 2022, 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. This information session will provide an avenue for families to share questions as well as receive information about the acceleration process. Please find additional information in the information session flyer.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us by visiting our Let’s Talk page ( and clicking the button labeled “Acceleration.”

COVID-19 Symptom Checklist and Instructions for Symptomatic Students

In October, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois State Board of Education released updated guidance and an updated exclusion decision tree. As a result, we have updated some of our protocols and required documents for symptomatic students. CLICK HERE for a one-page summary of the required steps and testing for students who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
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As always, thank you for your continued collaboration and support! Have a wonderful weekend. We look forward to seeing our scholars bright and early on Tuesday!

John Greenleaf Whittier Elementary

Where You Belong!

Patrick CL Robinson


Twitter: @PCLRobinson

Chasity McComb-Williams

Assistant Principal

Twitter: @mccombwilliams