Dear District 57 Families,
Last night, the School Board held a special meeting to determine the District’s next steps in dealing with the evolving pandemic. The Board planned this meeting after the Appellate Court dismissed the appeal of the Temporary Restraining Order last Thursday night. You can find an explanation of this ruling in my message from last week
. In summary, the court held that school districts retain local control to make decisions relating to COVID-19 mitigations.
The Board decided to continue to recommend but not require masks in the schools with the understanding that there is a right to decrease or increase mitigation strategies should the need arise in the future. (Masks will continue to be required on school buses, where masking is federally mandated.) This was the recommendation of District Administration, after a great deal of analysis and discussions with our attorneys, administrators, staff, and families. We took two significant factors into account in recommending a mask-recommended environment: the District’s mission and vision to provide the best possible educational experience for students and the latest data regarding the spread of COVID-19. We are celebrating that we continue to move in a very positive direction – community transmission is on the decline, along with the rest of the state, and we’re grateful that this progress is evident in our internal metrics
as well. As has been the case over the past three weeks, we will not be excluding individuals who are close contacts. Beginning Wednesday at Westbrook, Lions Park, and Lincoln, we also plan to transition back to seating at tables during lunch, with assigned seats and three-feet of distancing (this is already in place at Fairview).
At this link
, you can find last night’s presentation on mitigations, including the strategies we’ve been using up to this point, and recommendations going forward. Our number one priority is to keep students and staff safely in school for in-person learning.
To that end, we will continue to monitor the many factors that impact this priority and any changes concerning the pandemic. In addition, we will be responsive to communicating any changes to our COVID data on our district dashboard
and share the need to decrease or increase mitigation strategies accordingly.
Last night I stressed, as did Board members, that we realize the importance of maintaining a supportive environment that is respectful of family decisions. When we first shifted to optional masks, the principals made morning announcements to remind students and staff that things would look a bit different going forward and that it is more important than ever to be a school family that treats others with kindness. We are committed to addressing any issues as they arise. School staff members have been incredibly adaptable, and I expect that they will deal with this transition with their usual professionalism. If you have any concerns, I encourage you to reach out to your child’s teacher or your principal.
We heard from many parents and guardians at the Board meeting, and we have also received calls and letters from people with many different perspectives. I thank everyone who has reached out and expressed their thoughts as we have navigated this complex and changing situation. I also thank our Board members for the many hours they have devoted and for their thoughtful consideration of the complex issues and solutions.
On another note, thanks to everyone who came out to Lincoln for the screening of "Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety" and our enlightening panel discussion. It’s not too late to view this powerful new documentary! If you missed the in-person screening, you can still view the film on-demand through March 3. To watch the on-demand screening, please access the film at this link and select “Click Here for the Virtual Event.”
"Angst" is intended to start a conversation around the growing problem of anxiety. It features world champion swimmer Michael Phelps, experts in the field, and regular teens, who come together to explore the academic and social stress and pandemic fears and uncertainty that have increased mental health challenges among young people. The film breaks down what is currently going on and what young people can do to help themselves and others. It includes candid interviews and provides tips, tricks, strategies, and resources to help reset thinking patterns, push back against anxiety and support others. We hope you can view “Angst” before March 3!
In the spirit of education,
Dr. Mary Gorr
Superintendent of Schools, Mount Prospect District 57