Superintendent's Corner

Avoca District 37 - December 30, 2021

In this important issue...

  • COVID Rates and Returning to School: Mitigation & Preparation
  • COVID Testing after school on January 5, 6, and 7 - registration links included
  • Register Vaccination Status Here
  • Supporting Marie Murphy Staff & Students When Facing Loss
  • Strategic Planning Update
  • Good News & Joy to Share

COVID Rates and Returning to School: Mitigation & Preparation

Some school districts (none in New Trier Township) have indicated they will start the new year with remote learning due to COVID rates. We acknowledge that COVID rates are high, but we continue to consult our local health department guidance and recognize that we are in a different place than the last time COVID rates were so elevated. The County has not indicated that we should move to remote learning at this time.

Right now, we are planning for in-person instruction on January 3 for a number of reasons:

  • High vaccination rates
  • Ability to take additional mitigation steps, including
  • Further adapt internal operations
  • Limit extra classroom interactions (clubs, activities, athletics)
  • Test-to-stay program for identified 'close contacts'

However, please note that the steps you take at home are equally important to keeping our schools open, including:

  • Get vaccinated and a booster (click here if you are eligible for a booster and want one)
  • If symptomatic or if a student has been exposed, get them tested
  • Do not send COVID positive or symptomatic students to school
  • Wear an effective mask properly whenever indoors in public
  • Use rapid tests (if available) prior to going out to events, including school on January 3rd

Many have asked if our schools would move to fully remote learning in response to rising COVID rates. As of now, unless directed otherwise by the County Health Department (CCDPH), we would approach a move to remote instruction on a classroom by classroom basis, then, if necessary a grade by grade basis. Only as a last resort would we move an entire school to remote learning for a specific period of time.

Also, because of potential strains on staffing due to COVID, we could experience classroom-level disruptions to learning in the coming weeks. We have developed contingencies for internal subbing and have marshaled as may external subs as possible. If you are interested in being a substitute teacher next week and you have had a booster, please contact Susan Lovell via email at

New Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance regarding isolation and quarantine has changed. We do not yet know if the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) or CCDPH will issue similar guidance as no specific guidance for schools has changed as of this date.

COVID Testing on January 5, 6, and 7 at Marie Murphy

Please see my December 21 email with details of COVID testing at Marie Murphy for all students and families. That testing is not mandatory but is encouraged. Details are as follows:

January 5, 6, and 7 from 4 to 8 p.m. (January 8 if slots fill.)

Click here to schedule a test

Click here to pre-register and load the required paperwork

If you sign and load the parental consent form for your Marie Murphy student prior to the appointment, then you do not need to be present for their test. Otherwise, parents need to accompany students to the test.

Supporting Marie Murphy Students & Staff When Facing Loss

By now, you have seen my email about the unexpected death of Marie Murphy staff member, Dana Thomas. In the days since we were informed of this sudden loss by her husband, Luke, we have taken the following steps:

  • Our staff Crisis Response Team has been activated and outlined steps of support for staff and students to be taken, including individual outreach to specific students and staff members when appropriate.
  • Our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) has conducted drop-in grief counseling sessions via ZOOM for our staff members, both in group and 1:1 format. Additionally, staff members have had access to the EAP's 24/7 phone number for counseling.
  • Family Service Center of Northfield has provided drop-in grief counseling for students via ZOOM and will have a staff member onsite when students return on January 3.

If you hear of any students, parents/guardians, or staff members in distress over the loss of Dana Thomas, please email me or phone me at 847-728-4128. Or you can contact Kristen Moore via email ( or phone.

Secured Site to Register Vaccination Status

If your student has been vaccinated or you are a staff member that has received a booster, please make sure you register through our secure site by clicking on the link above. Vaccination affects your status as close contact and related quarantine.

Strategic Planning Update

Our focus group data from October and November has been reviewed by the Strategic Planning Committee and collaboration was undertaken so the committee could distill that information into the most important priorities recognized through focus groups.

In January, the committee will review the survey data that was produced as a result of community engagement and again will work through activities that cause the committee to identify the most important priorities emerging from the survey responses.

From those two activities, the committee will be able to draft a Portrait of a Graduate to share with the community for feedback, then a draft set of objectives and goals for the Board of Education to review after community feedback.

Ultimately, by late March or early April, the committee will have developed both the Portrait of a Graduate and Goals & Objectives of a Strategic Plan which can be adopted by the Board of Education.

Good News & Joy to Share

Despite immediate feelings about loss or rising COVID rates, we should not forget that the past month has been a remarkable one in the Avoca community for the good that has returned to us. Specifically,

  • Our holiday band, orchestra, and choir concerts returned in December
  • Marie Murphy's Roots & Shoots club facilitated giving to more than 20 families in need
  • Science Olympiad placed 3rd out of 51 schools in its first competition in over a year

These are meaningful moments for our students and families and staff that made the end of 2022 remarkable. Our resilience and community will bring us through our current challenges and empower us to finish the school year strong.