Dear District 97 Community,
We hope that you and your families are enjoying a safe and restful summer break. As we previously shared, District 97 is preparing for a full return to in-person instruction for the 2021-22 school year. While we hoped to solidify the operational details of our back-to-school plan earlier this summer, we are unfortunately still awaiting guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) regarding updated COVID-19 protocols for the fall.
Here’s what we know as of today:
- Under the latest ISBE resolution, remote instruction may only be provided to students who are not eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine AND are under a quarantine order by the state or local health department. This means that all students will be slated to return to full in-person learning, with the exception of students who meet the outlined criteria.
- District 97 has been operating under a comprehensive safety plan since January 2021. Although this plan was effective in allowing us to provide full-time instruction, it is based on the available guidance at the time—most of which has not been updated or addressed in light of our transition to Phase 5 of Restore Illinois.
With this in mind, our interim superintendents joined more than 300 superintendents in signing a letter to Gov. JB Pritzker, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), ISBE and State Superintendent Carmen Ayala seeking clear guidance on a number of issues related to reopening schools. That includes, but is not limited to: social distancing, masking, quarantines, COVID-19 testing and vaccination records.
We understand and respect that it is the role of IDPH to issue health guidance related to the pandemic. We believe it is vital for ISBE to collaborate with IDPH and other relevant agencies to provide clear, consistent and logical guidance to support districts in their planning efforts for the coming year.
Superintendents have been told to expect an update in the coming weeks, but we are uncertain exactly when we will receive revised guidelines or what will be included. In the meantime, we are hard at work preparing for multiple scenarios, and have developed plans to ensure that our students have all the academic and social-emotional support they need for the upcoming school year. We will update you as soon as we receive additional information from the state.
Thank you for your attention to this message and your ongoing support of District 97 schools.
Dr. Griff Powell and Dr. Patricia Wernet