Message From Dr. Scarsella
I want to start my monthly message by acknowledging how heartbreaking it was to announce our schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year. I know it was hard on the staff and certainly on our families. I would also like to take a moment to recognize the Palos South Class of 2020 and let our graduates know how disappointed we all are that they won’t be able to participate in graduation as we have always known it. Although the virus has robbed them of their traditional graduation ceremony, I want our entire school community to know we are hard at work planning how best to recognize our graduates as they transition on to high school. We hope to share that plan with them soon.
On April 13, the school district began to fully implement its remote learning plan. As I have previously reported, remote learning requires a higher level of engagement and communication between teachers and students than previous E-Learning. I’m so very proud of our teachers for making our remote learning program both meaningful and engaging for our students.
I am also very proud of our parent partnerships and have some exciting news to share about our student engagement rate. At the end of last week, only 18 middle school students did not engage in remote learning every day last week. Only 13 elementary students were not engaged every day. I take pride in reporting that our schools made contact with almost all of our families who did not engage over the course of those four remote learning days. Our engagement rates demonstrate our students are staying connected with their teachers and their schools, and their parents and loved ones are supporting them the best they can during this challenging time for families.
As I mentioned above, one way we are supporting families is through the device loan program. To date, over 200 devices have been loaned to families in need of devices. We continue to serve approximately 60 lunches a day and we are investigating ways we can work within the National School Lunch Program to expand service to needy senior citizens. I cannot say enough about how our technology department, food service and operations staff have risen to the occasion to support struggling families.
Now that remote learning is up and running, our conversation has pivoted to answer two critical questions. First, how we can reopen schools safely? Second, how can we catch students up? I also want to be completely transparent with our school community by acknowledging effective planning will require additional information from outside sources. We need to know what additional regulations will be imposed and what current regulations will be relaxed when school does reopen. We also need to know more about how the virus is spread and what are the most effective and appropriate precautions we must take to protect our students’ health and well-being. We will plan different scenarios based on the information we have now but our final plans will require more guidance, more scientific knowledge and more support. My hope is that over the coming weeks some of that much needed information will become available to us.
Below is a revised school calendar for the remainder of the school year.
The Illinois State Board of Education has allotted every school district five remote learning planning days. As we continue to adjust to the many challenges with teaching and learning from home, we have scheduled three remote learning planning days to allow us to modify, adjust and improve upon our remote learning experience for students. These days will be held on May 4, 11, and 18. There will be no student assignments required on these dates.
Yesterday, I finally did it. I cut my own hair. It wasn’t perfect. I never imagined I would be my own barber but the alternative was to do nothing until my hair was completely unmanageable. It reminded me about how all of you are taking on the role of educational support specialists to support your children during remote learning. It isn’t going to be perfect. But your partnership with our teachers will make the return to in-person instruction much more manageable. I thank you for your continued commitment to your child’s education. When this is over, our dedicated educators will stand ready to address any learning loss. My barber will be ready to address my hair, too.
With sincere gratitude,
Dr. Anthony M. Scarsella
Superintendent of Schools