Message From Dr. Scarsella, Superintendent
Dear Palos 118 Families,
I hope all of our families have had an opportunity to enjoy the beginning of summer recess now that remote learning and the school year have ended. It was great to see so many of you participate in our “Final Waves” on June 2. The decorated cars, thoughtful signs and smiling faces were a terrific reminder of how connected we remain as a school community despite the closure of our physical school buildings. At all three schools, it was completely evident that nothing can break the tight bond between our students and teachers; not even a global pandemic.
While summer recess is still in its infancy, we unfortunately must begin to consider what next year will look like as we plan to reopen schools safely in August. Last week, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) issued joint guidance to school districts for summer programming. It remains unclear at this time if the safety recommendations outlined in that guidance document will apply to the reopening of schools in August. ISBE has indicated an additional round of guidance will be issued sometime in the next two weeks. I’m hopeful that the next round of guidance is less restrictive and will provide greater flexibility for how schools can open safely.
For those school districts contemplating in-person summer programming, ISBE and IDPH guidance prohibits more than 10 individuals from gathering in one space at a time and requires school districts to ensure 6-feet of social distancing in schools and on school buses. These are just two of the many requirements outlined in the summer programming guidance. If these same safety requirements apply to opening schools in August, it will be logistically impossible for Palos 118 to fully open schools at the beginning of next school year. Within these parameters, the school district will have no choice but to limit the number of students physically present at school on a given day. This severely limits our options for how we can start school next year. These options include:
- Returning to remote learning with no in-person instruction; or
- Designing staggered schedules where a group of students attend school on certain days while another group engages in remote learning at home.
I completely understand how inconvenient it will be for many of our families if we are forced to open schools on a modified schedule. Families with both parents working outside the home will be most negatively impacted. I want nothing more than to fully open schools come August 26, however, we must follow ISBE and IDPH guidance for opening schools safely. We hope to have a more concrete picture of how schools will open by mid-July. Once a tentative plan is complete, we will solicit feedback from parents. I want parents to have a clear understanding about what is logistically feasible for the school district to implement under the final guidelines prior to completing the survey.
So, what can parents do in the meantime to plan for an uncertain start to the school year? I would strongly urge parents to begin exploring various options for daycare. Parents should consider how best they would meet their childcare needs if students only attend school in person on half days, certain days of the week, or on an every other week schedule. Parents should also plan for the possibility of school beginning with only remote learning and no in-person instruction.
I would also urge parents to continue to reinforce with students the importance of hand washing. We know that hand washing is the number one preventative measure we can all take to curb the spread of infectious disease. For parents of our youngest students, I recommend they practice wearing face coverings. Although I understand it will be challenging for students to keep face coverings on while at school, this is something the state may require as a condition for reopening schools. Please consider practicing prolonged face covering this summer to ease the transition of your student(s) back to school in August.
I am committed to providing our school community as much information as quickly as I can regarding next school year. My frustration grows daily with the slow pace at which local school districts are receiving the information we need to effectively plan, so our families can effectively plan. In the meantime, I’m asking parents to consider multiple possibilities, just as the school district is currently doing. I thank you for your patience and understanding. Please continue to check your email for updates from me.
Below are just a couple quick reminders.
School and District Offices
If you need to visit a school or district office, please make an appointment to do so by contacting us at the following phone numbers:
Central Office 708-448-4800
Palos East School 708-448-1084
Palos West School 708-761-3802
Palos South School 708-448-5971
Summer Learning Resources
District 118 has created a Summer Learning Resources page for families who are seeking educational opportunities for their children. Many of the District’s online resources have been extended throughout June, July, and early August so that returning students have access to research-based educational programs with the ease of logging in through their ClassLink account. These programs are adaptive to your child’s abilities and align to grade level standards. Additionally, the page offers a plethora of educational websites, online reading materials, virtual field trips, and so much more. Having children engaged in learning activities throughout the summer will help them feel more confident and prepared to enter the next grade level when school resumes in the fall.
Dr. Anthony M. Scarsella
Superintendent of Schools
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