Volume 24, No. 8 | Friday, February 26, 2021
News from the February 23, 2021 meeting
'State of 28' Offers District Overview
No question this year has been dominated by developing safe and equitable access to education during the pandemic, but there are also numerous instructional programs and initiatives that were implemented this year. Superintendent Dr. Larry Hewitt presented his annual report, “State of 28,” that provides key information about the district using longitudinal data in several areas, including demographics and finances.
 
The instructional emphasis this year includes implementing the third and final year of the Learning First technology initiative, which completed the distribution of iPads to each student as well as continued professional development for teachers. New math, English language arts and social studies curriculum are in place; a new STEM lab opened at the junior high; new communication tools were implemented; cybersecurity was improved, and work has begun on diversity, equity and inclusion. The “State of 28” concludes with a list of issues the district is monitoring and tracking for their potential future impact.
 
Health metrics continue to improve, making it highly probable that the district will be able to finish out the school year in its current model of students being either full-time remote or full-time in-person learning, based on family choice. With that in mind, the district administration is beginning to plan for the 2021-22 school year. Dr. Hewitt said he hopes many more children will be in school next year, even if mitigation measures must remain in place until most children can be vaccinated.
 
“The summer of 2020 was filled with fear and anxiety. But we have brought back a large number of students five days per week and have not had any outbreaks. I am hopeful that parents see that it works and that more children will be back on-site for in-person learning next year. As we move forward and receive additional guidance from the state, we will determine how staffing and classroom space will need to be allocated,” he said. 

Travel Restrictions Ease For Some States
There are consistent or improving health metrics locally, and travel restrictions are easing as COVID-19 positivity rates are declining in many parts of the country.
 
There are now several states with positivity rates of 15 or less per 100,000, which do not require quarantining upon return, Superintendent Larry Hewitt stated in his report to the Board. Travel restrictions are tracked on this map by Cook County and the City of Chicago Health Department. Dr. Hewitt said he will continue to monitor this map, which is updated bi-weekly on Tuesdays. The list of travel quarantine states will be updated on Tuesday, March 9, and goes into effect Friday, March 12. In addition, the travel quarantine has been reduced from 14 days to 10 days. These factors allow for a shortened pivot to remote learning after spring break - or canceling it completely, he said, if more states continue to come off the quarantine list. International travel guidelines are set by the CDC and have not changed.

Reduced Pivot to Remote Learning After Spring Break
With the reduction in the travel quarantine from 14 days to 10 days, the post-spring break pivot to remote learning will be shortened by two days. Therefore, in-person learning will restart on Thursday, April 8. Any student who has traveled to an ‘orange’ state is eligible to return on April 8 if they are back in Illinois by Sunday, March 28. Remote learning days will be March 29-April 1 (April 2 is a non-attendance day) and April 5-7.
 
To date, the Illinois Department of Public Health has not provided guidance regarding spring break. The CDC/IDPH continues to recommend that non-essential travel should be avoided. However, if traveling, remember to wear your mask in public, stay 6-feet socially distanced, and wash hands frequently.
In brief
Mobile App Launches for Parents and Staff
After piloting the District 28 mobile app with parents from the PTO and Communications Advisory Council, the publicity campaign for all parents began on Sunday, Feb. 21. The mobile app, created by the district’s new mass notification system, Blackboard, is available for both Apple and Android phones. The calendars and news feeds can be customized to school(s) of interest. There are quick links to frequently used websites as well as one-touch access to school and teacher directories. Additional customization is available for parents wishing to access student lunch balances and school/district notifications by requesting a login and password through Communications Director Terry Ryan.
 
Five Essentials Survey Continues
The Illinois 5Essentials Survey of staff, parents and students in grades 4-8 window is open through April 2.
The Illinois 5Essentials Survey is administered by the University of Chicago, on behalf of the Illinois State Board of Education. The survey is intended to measure five “essentials” critical for school success:
  • Effective Leaders
  • Collaborative Teachers
  • Involved Families
  • Supportive Environment
  • Ambitious Instruction
School-level reports will be generated if at least 20 percent of parents respond to the survey, and 50 percent of students and staff. Each school in the district has already met this threshold. Parents who have not yet participated can still respond through April 2. Data on the surveys will be included in each school report card, released by the state at the end of October. Parent and student identities will be kept completely confidential and responses will not be linked to any individual.
Want to Know More?
Livestream/Archive Video
The Board of Education meetings are live-streamed on the District 28's YouTube Channel. The live streams are also archived for later viewing.

Next Meeting is on March 16
The Board of Education meetings will be held virtually until further notice in order to limit visitors within the school buildings and maintain cleaning protocols. The public is invited to listen to the audio stream of the meeting on the district's YouTube Channel. The next regular meeting of the Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. on March 16.