“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”
– Ryunosuke Satoro
Since March 12, 2020, our school district has been engaged in the COVID-19 global pandemic. Our schools first closed their doors on March 13, 2020, then Illinois closed all in-person schooling on March 17, 2020. Our teachers, support staff, administrators, parents, students, community, everyone, marshaled new resources for learning, teaching, and living, and our lives changed forever. Our Teaching & Learning team met with teachers and administrators and made learning and teaching plans to get us through and ahead of each and every step of the journey we were thrust into. Schooling for the 2019-2020 school year ended on June 4, 2020, with revolutionary transformative impacts still yet to be fully understood or realized. The District pushed out online resources at a pace and scope and scale never before seen. The District pushed out devices to children and families at a pace and scope and scale never before seen – and the District’s four priorities led us through the next phases.
During this phase, the March – June phase, I was honored and humbled to be asked to join and take part in multiple interviews regarding the District 112 story, some shared below:
In July, the District ushered in its first-ever virtual summer school and the data showed effective impact! The District assembled a 50+ person stakeholder team to plan for the restart of schools with the support and advice of the DMGroup from Boston, MA. We planned last summer for the possibility of three options, fully in-person schooling, fully remote schooling, and Hybrid schooling. In September, and through October, the District implemented the well thought out plans for Hybrid Learning (full plan and many communication tools linked https://www.nssd112.org/domain/1243).
On October 21, and through today (and ongoing) the District is engaged in full remote learning. We have measured learning (using the NWEA MAP tests) we have measured Remote Learning (with our partner ECRA Group assessing teachers/staff, parents, and middle school students in May and October), we measured staff culture (with our partner Humanex Ventures), we measured family engagement and student engagement (with our partner Humanex Ventures), we take what works and replicated and improve upon it and we take what doesn’t work and fix it (example with middle school remote learning moving from all asynchronous to all synchronous).
So, when will we reopen our schools …. when will we resume the Hybrid Learning Model and even the fully in-person model? Early on in this journey, we yielded public health expertise, advice, and guidance to the public health experts. The Lake County, IL Health Department (an agency of the Illinois Department of Public Health) has taken a lead in Illinois (and in the nation) with parsimonious guidance and leadership to the schools in Lake County, IL. Our District follows their advice. Our plan has been clearly laid out and communicated since August. The hyper significant community spread of COVID 19 caused us to close the doors to our school buildings and transform learning and teaching from Hybrid to remote.
We will open our schools again when we can. There is no calendar date for reopening since the virus, hyper significant community spread, and the advice of public health experts will guide our decision making. We investigate widespread surveillance testing as an enhanced risk mitigation, we investigate how to get the vaccines to turn into vaccinations in the arms of our staff and community, as well as the efficacy of the millions of dollars in already introduced risk mitigation in our schools in an effort to get our kids and staff back on campus.
I want our kids back in school and our doors open again as soon as practical and permissible. As the winter holiday season falls upon us, I call for grace, compassion, kindness, love, and care as we bring this year of years to an end – farewell 2020 …. and as we welcome 2021 with open arms and HOPE and ANTICIPATION!
I know this to be true, our schools WILL be open again to in-person learning in 2021 – I do not know the dates for the transition, but I know we will create a new and improved learning system that innovates, inspires, and engages each child, each staff member, and each member of the community. Where we go from here is up to us. How we react to life is up to us. How we model humility, grace, resiliency to our children is up to us!
Stay tuned … our journey is just beginning!