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Update on School Closures April 18, 2020

Dear Antioch School District 34 Families,

 

I won’t pretend to know. I won’t pretend to know what you are thinking. I won’t pretend to know how you feel. I won’t pretend to know your questions. I won’t pretend to know your fears. I won’t pretend to know your hopes. I won’t pretend to know your points of pain. I won’t pretend to know your points of pride. I won’t pretend to know your losses. I won’t pretend to know your wins. I won’t pretend to know your current situation. I won’t pretend to know how this all has impacted your or your families. I won’t pretend to know…

 

What do I know? I know what it’s like to be coming into a new role, in a new district to serve incredible students, families, and staff, many of whom I’ve never met. I know what it’s like to beam with pride while seeing, hearing about, and trying to support the incredible work being done by our entire D34 team, families included. I know what it’s like to be confused, fearful, and uncertain about how we land this plane and what takeoff looks like in the Fall. I know what it’s like to wish so badly that we could be together. I know what it’s like to hug my own 3rd grader who cries about this loss and feels like she had so much more to give to Student Council this year. I know what it’s like to console my 4th grader that came to the realization that come next year, she will no longer, for the first time since she can remember, be going to school with her mom, her sister, or her best friend that just announced she is moving away. I know what it’s like to see the pain and tears in my wife’s eyes as she wrestles with not being able to see, hug, and ensure the wellness and growth of her 19 kinders for the rest of the year. I know what it’s like to wish this away and yearn for the ability to go back to so much of what I think I was taking for granted. I know what it’s like to live in a house where we no longer count the days to a vacation, sporting events, or holiday celebrations; rather, we just want school, work, and some form of the grind we once knew, back.

 

What do you need to know? We are and will be here for you, now and into our bright future. I hope with every fiber of my being that we all are able to stay healthy, safe, and well, amid the continued spread and impact of this pandemic. I commit to serving you. I am honored to have joined your team and I am inspired by your stories, hopes, and dreams. Your partnership, collaboration, perspective, and experiences are important to me and us. While apart, together, we are all working to do our part. I am grateful for you and proud of you. If we can each resolve to, daily, do and be our best, in the end, we will be prepared for when we can again be together.

 

As I am sure you know, yesterday, Governor Pritzker announced that we will not be returning to on-site school this year. While there had been significant speculation and suspicion of this enormous announcement/decision, yesterday it became our latest new reality. In heeding advice, staying collaborative with a variety of agencies, and working feverishly together to ensure we are doing right with, by, and for our stakeholders, District 34 stands prepared to engage in Remote Learning for the rest of this school year. Additionally, we will ensure we are ready for a return to school whenever we are permitted to do so. When we do reconvene, we can assure you that we will be implementing any and all precautions that are in place and recommendations guiding our work at that time.

 

Here are a few important updates and reminders:

  • We feel for everyone. The loss of a predictable end to the school year will be difficult and hard to imagine. Our hearts are heavy with confusion and a desire to find normalcy and control over this situation. Your patience, flexibility, trust, understanding, and partnership are more important now than ever before. If you, your student(s), or your family need anything, please know you can contact us any time.   
  • Regarding our traditional end-of-year activities, we have teams of people exploring, discussing, and contemplating options. Decisions may include postponements, creative alternatives, or cancelations. The latter will be used as a last resort. Please know, we commit to having a form of graduation for our 8thgraders.
  • We have a team that is drafting communications and guidelines related to grading and report cards, with the input of our staff. This information will be shared with staff and then subsequently pushed out to you, our families. In a couple short quips, know our focus is on learning over earning and grace over grades. We remain cognizant of the unique ways this new reality may be impacting individual students and their families, therefore, we remain focused on doing what we believe is best for all students.
  • There is an Illinois State Board of Education SWAT team working on guidance related to remotely concluding the school year and the steps for a safe, coordinated, and successful return to on-site learning. We are being told this guidance will consist of direction related to item/belonging retrieval at the end of the year, learning loss evaluation and mitigation, and, most importantly, social emotional wellness for students and staff, now and upon return. This guidance will inform the work of a series of committees that have been stood up in D34 to discuss these very important items, among others.
  • Very shortly, we will be making decisions related to Summer School and Extended School Year programming. Communications will be forthcoming.
  • We still plan to invoke Remote Learning Planning Days on April 22 and April 29. The use of the other 2 Remote Learning Planning Days available to us will be decided upon and communicated. 
    • Reminder: The purpose of these days is to grant staff members a chance to plan, collaborate, coordinate, and develop their lessons and themselves. No student work will be assigned on these days, however, students will be able to use the days as opportunities to catch up on or complete outstanding assignments, if they choose.
  • The school year will conclude as scheduled, on May 28, 2020.
  • As you may be aware, there are significant questions being raised with respect to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on finances and budgets across the state. As responsible stewards of your tax dollars, please know that we are actively working to develop and consider a variety of projections, factoring in a series of unknows and possibilities. In the end, we commit to ensuring our students and staff have what they need now and in the future, while being fiscally responsible in the decisions about and nuances of district spending.

 

Resources:

  • Grieving this reality and the loss of the rest of the school is normal and okay. We are encouraged and encouraging us all to focus on what we are able to control and we ask that you focus on wellness, too…for yourself, your family, and our students.
    • As a way to continue to support the students of Antioch School District 34 and support children’s social and emotional needs, the district will be pushing out mindfulness apps to student iPads over the next few days.  The purpose is to help students practice relaxation techniques through the use of mindfulness to promote positive emotions and overall student well-being. Mindfulness is the awareness of one's physical, emotional, and mental state.  Research suggests that mindfulness can help reduce stress, increase positive emotions, and help with sustaining attention. This can even be done as a family unit.  
      • App for PreK-5: Smiling Mind & Breathe Kids
      • App for Middle School: Smiling Mind
      • Smiling Mind: You can choose your age group (3-6, 7-9, 10-12, 13-15) and they offer a variety of exercises, not just guided meditation.  It also offers modules for different age groups that coordinate different activities and each day gives you a new mindfulness guide. This is recommended for use by anyone. 
      • Breathe Kids: Directed towards younger students, offers guided meditation based on how you are feeling or you can choose which guided meditation you want based on your needs.
    • The Illinois Department of Human Services has launched a support line called Call4Calm. If you would like to speak with a mental health professional, text the work “TALK” for English speakers and “HABLAR” for Spanish speakers to the number 552-020. You will soon be connected with a healthcare professional in our area. You may also text keywords like “unemployment,” “food,” or “shelter” to receive information and support. The Call4Calm service is free and callers remain anonymous.
  • We will continue to send out the weekly Family Check In form and encourage you to use that form as a way to help us identify your needs.
  • Lunch Program solicitations will continue 3X per week, allowing families to opt-in, as and when needed. Food distribution will continue at AUGS from 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., Monday-Friday.
  • Here is the most recent Newsletter from the Lake County Health Department.

 

Our entire team - across buildings, departments, roles, and responsibilities – continues to work, grow, learn, adapt, and serve. I know as families, you are doing the same. It is amazing. I am so proud of, grateful for, and inspired by you. Together, we will get through this and I cannot wait to be together as soon as possible. Until then, please check out this video message from me: #YNWA.

 

Stay tuned for more information, enjoy the beautiful weekend if you are able, and let us know if you need anything.

 

Be and stay well, healthy, and safe,
Dr. Bradford Hubbard