Message from the Superintendent

March 5, 2021

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Dear District 41 Families,

As we head into the weekend, it is important that I take this opportunity to share some successes, correct some misunderstandings, and hopefully bring down the level of stress that is playing out in many households about next school year.

I would like to thank everyone who has reached out directly to ask their questions. There is no substitute for a good old fashioned conversation. I thank you for spending your time with me on these calls.

Let’s start with the successes.

  • We were one of the first districts to implement COVID-19 saliva screening for in person students and staff in addition to BinaxNOW testing.

  • We brought the community together to form the Pandemic Response Advisory Team (PRAT).

  • Medical experts have engaged with the district to provide guidance throughout the pandemic.

  • We have consistent academic models and support for all learners. An academic update will be presented to the Board on March 22.

  • In addition to in-person core instruction, the current blended model provides for programs such as FLES, Dual Language, AEC, Band/Orchestra, interventions and supports outside of core instruction, as well as teacher specialization.

  • We have invested in additional staff to support both of our learning models this year and expanded our technology to become a 1:1 district in all grades.

  • Collaboration has been ongoing with the Community Finance Advisory Committee (FAC).

  • Consistent communications related to the pandemic have been shared since March 2020, including virtual information sessions as we started the year in a very different way. Events such as Hadley graduation and parent/teacher conferences have taken place virtually with much success.

  • Kept students/staff safe by making the difficult decision to put an entire school on remote/adaptive pause. A very productive meeting was hosted by the PTA with over 100 parents at Lincoln School after the school went on the adaptive pause.

  • Our staff are being vaccinated! We are very fortunate to have hosted two clinics along with the other Glenbard Feeder districts.

I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished together in these unprecedented times for our students and also sincerely appreciate the collaboration (and patience) it has taken to make this year happen. That being said, everyone recognizes that this year has been experienced differently by every family. This is a universal reality for all school districts right now. Every district has approached this differently based on the unique resources, needs and challenges. Every district will do what is necessary to support students so that they can safely thrive as a greater sense of normalcy becomes possible.

I am hoping that the following information clears up any misunderstandings and helps families with their planning. I know families are feeling stress about what school will look like next year.

  • District 41 is firmly committed to fully reopening next year. Let me repeat that. We are firmly committed to fully reopening next year! We are actively working to make this happen based on the science that says things will be different in the Fall as compared to last fall, specifically.

The greatest challenge for D41 is space in our school buildings. This issue existed long before the pandemic and will exist after the pandemic. Various solutions were explored by past Boards and administrations but none have fully resolved the issue. The scale of the solution will be an important focus for future community input and Board decisions.

  • The process of setting up classrooms and taking measurements was done prior to this school year by Building and Grounds Director Dave Scarmardo and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Katie McCluskey. Because we have rooms that are different sizes, different shapes, different layouts, it is necessary to set up each classroom individually. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to measuring rooms, placing furniture, creating a content appropriate learning environment. Our rooms were set up so that we could comply with 6 feet of social distancing. This information was shared, along with photos, at a Board meeting. In addition, Board members were offered an opportunity to visit a building and view the architect plans. This work was done and discussed openly and transparently at Board meetings. The Finance Advisory Committee was also kept informed and offered the opportunity to provide input.

  • As we investigate ways to achieve 3 feet of distancing, it is important to recognize that the very same people went back into rooms to see how many additional students could be put in rooms using 3 feet. We cannot fit all of the PM students in the AM classes and achieve 3 feet. We cannot offer this in some classrooms or some schools and not offer it in all. We also cannot make a decision that forces students who are currently in person to go full remote. The buildings and grounds team is currently working on determining how many students can fit in rooms as a Plan B only, in the event that we are under an executive order or directive that necessitates the need for 3 feet in the Fall. We need to know what the overflow needs are for each school and determine how we will solve it at each school. We will have more information to share at Monday’s Board meeting.

Planning for Next Year is Underway and on Target

D41 is right on target with publishing a plan for the 2021-2022 school year. Our planning process is comparable to districts across the county. In fact, here is some recent survey data from 46 school districts in and outside of DuPage County:

  • 30 anticipate fully reopening for fall, 6 anticipate hybrid, 10 are TBD

  • Of the 46 districts, 3 do not plan to offer full remote next year, 5 do and 38 are TBD

  • Of the 46 districts, 0 have posted a detailed plan for 2021-2022

We are also in the process of developing a survey to send to parents in the very near future. As is consistent with past practice in the district, the survey will be developed and administered independently of the district by a professional survey company. The survey will be a useful tool for administration but also for the Board of Education as they, through their governance role, make decisions that have both short and long term implications.

I hope that this information helps you as you plan and make decisions for next year. The Board and district staff fully recognize how challenging this year has been. Many of us also have been personally impacted by the model of school implemented for our own children. Every single one of us have approached this work as we would want it done for our own children.

Thank you for taking the time to read this lengthy email. I will continue providing updates and more details at every Board meeting as we move forward with our planning.

Dr. K

Dr. Melissa Kaczkowski, Superintendent

Glen Ellyn School District 41