The Whittier Wildcat Word

Friday, March 25, 2022

A Message from Principal Robinson

Greetings Whittier Wildcats,


I hope this newsletter finds all our families doing well!


Today, we ended with a much-needed school-wide dance party. The students and staff had a wonderful time! I witnessed a lot of great dance moves from our scholars and staff. We danced into spring break!


I wish all families and friends a fun and safe spring break. We look forward to seeing all our scholars on Monday, April 4, 2022.


Have a great week!


In partnership,

Principal Robinson

Whittier School - Where I Belong!

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Upcoming Dates

March 2022 ( Women's History Month)


28th - April 1st - SPRING BREAK - SCHOOLS CLOSED



Looking Ahead!!!



April 2022 - (Easter)


4th - School resumes

11th - Hot breakfast & lunch

12th - Board Meeting

15th - No School

17th - Easter Sunday

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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 - Dr. Kila Bell-Bey - Social Worker

  1. Hello! My Name is... Kila Bell-Bey (the preschool kiddos call me Ms. Kila) :-)

  2. I am... a school social worker and I support the early childhood population and I have been at Whittier about 5 years now (I came from a K-5 position at Irving and I was there almost 20 years). Fun fact? I started my D97 career right here at Whittier back in 1997 as a social work intern!!!

  3. My favorite color is... as a kid it was red but at this point in my life I can appreciate all the colors!

  4. What I like most about Whittier is... the sense of community and the fact that everybody likes to eat often-lol!!

  5. If I had a Superpower it would be… to eradicate all the hatred in the world. Why? Because hatred leads to the ugliest of things! A wise man taught me that love is the ONLY savior of the world!!

  6. If I was an animal I would be a Dolphin because... they are graceful, intelligent, and they bring joy to others!

  7. What advice would you give the scholars of Whittier? No matter how many times things do not work out the way you planned always keep pushing for what you envision!! Tenacity is a characteristic that you grow into!!

District 97 to Resume Hot Lunch on April 11

District 97 to Resume Hot Lunch on April 11 - Menus Now Available
Beginning Monday, April 11, all District 97 schools will resume serving hot lunch. The new menus and nutritional information are linked below.

The current cold breakfast/lunch menu will be in place through Friday, April 8.


Lunch Reminders

  • Meals brought from home must be nut-free.
  • Lunch will continue to be served at no cost to families.
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WHITTIER BEYOND HUNGER CAN DO DRIVE: APRIL 1ST – 30TH

This year our school is sponsoring the CAN DO Drive for our local Food Pantry, Beyond Hunger, again! With job and work losses amounting amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, Beyond Hunger has even more people visiting their pantries. Now more than ever they need our support to meet this growing need. Online donations allow Beyond Hunger to offer the essential nutrients that people need right now. Just $1 allows Beyond Hunger to provide 3 meals. Whittier will be collecting these specific foods at school. Please ONLY bring these items:

• Jelly
• Peanut Butter
• Canned Chicken Soup
• Cheerios’ Cereal
• Canned Mixed Vegetables (low sodium)
• Diced Tomatoes
• Tomato Paste
• Bagged Rice (White or Brown)
• Refried and Dry Beans (Pinto and Black)
• Canned Pineapples

You can donate to the Whittier School CAN DO online fundraiser page by clicking here. Feel free to share this link on social media to help Beyond Hunger. Our fundraiser runs from April 1st-30th.

Feel free to contact Mrs. Weiss (lweiss@op97.org) with questions.

Afterschool Playground Supervision

As the weather gets warmer, we wanted to remind families about after-school supervision. We provide supervision until 3:15 (2:45 on Wednesdays) each day. After that time, students need to head home. Our students are very excited to play after school in the nicer weather, and we want to make sure this is done safely. If students are going to stay to play together after our supervision, we require a parent or guardian to be present on the turf, blacktop, or playground to supervise. Thank you for helping us provide a safe, fun environment for all students after school.

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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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 (https://forms.gle/5xqKFJQ5gBH4YBM47). 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 21st

This week we taught the last lesson of our Child Protection Units in accordance with Erin’s Law, which teaches students age-appropriate ways to recognize and report sexual abuse. Student’s watched videos that were designed to help them remember and practice the skills and concepts they’ve learned throughout the last 5 weeks. Research shows that when students review and practice safety rules and skills, they’re more likely to remember and apply them when they need to. When we return from spring break we will resume teaching our Second Step lessons which will focus upon solving problems with peers!


Home Links:

Kindergarten- Reviewing Safety Skills

First Grade- Reviewing Safety Skills

Second Grade- Reviewing Safety Skills

Third Grade- Reviewing Safety Skills

Fourth Grade- Reviewing Safety Skills

Fifth Grade- Reviewing Safety Skills

*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: http://survey.5-essentials.org/illinois/survey/parent/

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 (hwinkelhake@op97.org). 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 www.smart-oakpark.org.

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

Whittier Wildchat

The Whittier PTO breaks down The Rundown on our weekly Whittier Wildchat podcast and has a weekly special guest to help you stay in the know. Subscribe today!
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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 d97feedback@op97.org. 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.


Sincerely,


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 http://www.op97.org/acceleration. 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 (bit.ly/D97LetsTalk) 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

Principal

probinson@op97.org

Twitter: @PCLRobinson


Chasity McComb-Williams

Assistant Principal

cmccomb-williams@op97.org

Twitter: @mccombwilliams