Dear District 86 Community, 

In the message about spring break that I sent on March 26, I shared that we will begin our shift to a long-term Remote Learning Day (RLD) plan this week. This aligns with the announcement from State Superintendent Carmen Ayala on Friday that "remote learning days will begin for schools statewide on March 31 and continue until in-person instruction can resume." In preparation for this change, a team of instructional leaders for the district has prepared a document that details how we will administer the various aspects of our RLD plan (e.g., completion of assignments, grading, schedule, etc.). You can access this document by visiting https://bit.ly/2WVdjqs.  

In order for this plan to be successful, it is imperative that everyone take an active role in its implementation. It will be particularly important for students to remain engaged in their learning (e.g., check in for class on time, fully complete their assignments, seek the help of teachers, counselors or social workers when needed, etc.), and for parents/guardians to assist them in those efforts (e.g., encourage their students’ daily participation in instruction, check their students’ grades/progress in the Home Access Center on a regular basis, work with teachers to determine how family members can help support students who may be struggling with assignments or the remote learning process, etc.). If you have questions about the plan after reviewing the document, please contact the teacher about class-specific issues and the building principal about issues that are specific to the school or district. 

In addition to providing information about the RLD plan, I want to address some of the feedback we have received about the decision to forgo spring break in favor of extending e-learning this week. Please know that the various situations and scenarios you shared were considered when determining our course of action. However, given the stay at home order here in Illinois, the similar orders that have been enacted in more than 25 other states across the country, including several that border us (e.g., Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana), and the rapidly rising number of COVID-19 cases (more than 5,000 in Illinois and nearly 160,000 in the U.S.) that are affecting people of all ages, we cannot and will not promote, authorize or advocate that anyone engage in activities (e.g., short- or long-distance road trips, visits to a family cottage or lake house, etc.) that violates those orders or has the potential to endanger the health and safety of others. Instead, we will continue to stress how critically important is it to be vigilant about following the guidelines, directives and parameters that have been issued by local, state, national and international health organizations and government agencies.

We have taken the steps we believe are necessary from an instructional and operational standpoint to support the physical and emotional well-being of our students, staff and families during this difficult time. With that said, we realize people are going to do what they believe is best for managing their stress and anxiety during this crisis, and have no intention of dictating or policing individual’s day-to-day activities. We simply ask that you strive to make well-informed decisions that take into account not only the seriousness and severity of this pandemic, but also the potential impact your choices may have on the lives of others. 

I realize the change in plans for spring break and the COVID-19 situation in general have been particularly difficult on our seniors. You have spent the past three years working hard to reach what should have been the culmination and celebration of your high school careers. Instead, you have been left to wonder what will happen with annual rites of passage such as prom, graduation and getting out of school early. I am sorry that the second half of this year has not been what you wished or planned for, but promise you that we are working on potential solutions that may allow us to proceed with these traditions in some form or fashion. More importantly, we will provide you with opportunities to weigh in on these solutions whenever possible. For example, we are administering a survey you can use to share your thoughts about potential options for graduation. I hope you will take advantage of these opportunities to give us your feedback. 

Lastly, I want to address comments I have received about a very outdated school of thought. There is no denying the passion and dedication of our students and staff. However, if this outbreak has taught us anything, it is that the practice of telling people that they need to attend school or come to work when they are not feeling well must become a thing of the past. We know we cannot truly be successful if we are not at our physical or emotional best. That is why people should not be afraid of or discouraged from taking time to catch their breath or recharge during this unprecedented time in our lives. I realize some will say that spring break was intended for exactly that purpose. However, there are a number of people who truly believe and have communicated to us that being engaged in learning is what they need right now because it is giving them a sense of structure and purpose. In addition, if our assumptions are correct and the closure is extended beyond April 7, I believe people will benefit more from taking days off as they need them. With that said, as I mentioned in my message about spring break, families are still welcome to proceed with any activities they had scheduled this week. We simply ask that students have their parents/guardians call in their absences, and that they work with their teachers to determine the plan for making up work. 

Thank you again for all of your support and encouragement as we continue to navigate this crisis.

Stay safe and be well. 

Tammy Prentiss 
Superintendent