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March 20, 2020: message from Superintendent Prentiss to District 86 students

Dear District 86 Students,

I plan to send a more detailed update to the entire community later today. However, I wanted to take a moment to share how proud I am of each and every one of you. You have risen to the challenges set before you, persevered in the face of fear and uncertainty, and exhibited a level of courage, resiliency and resolve that deserves to be recognized and applauded.

As I mentioned in one of my emails to your teachers, there is no manual for navigating this unprecedented time in our lives. Each day seems to bring a new set of guidelines to follow or a different course of action to take to combat the spread of COVID-19 and keep us all healthy and safe. However, each update we receive or change we are asked to implement seems to shrink the space, options and opportunities that are available to us. Despite all of this, you have remained steadfast in your commitment to your education and each other. This will be even more critical in the days ahead as the circumstances surrounding the virus continue to shift and evolve.

What has truly amazed me is your response to our e-learning plan. While your participation rates have been stellar (average of 98% this week), it is the thoughtful feedback you have offered that has stood out above all else. It would have been easy to simply log in each day and do your work. Instead, many of you have taken the time to share your thoughts about ways we might improve the plan going forward. For this, I thank you. Your continued support and engagement will be instrumental in ensuring that we provide you with access to meaningful instruction while our schools are closed.

I know some of you have shared questions and concerns about our current position on grading e-learning assignments. Please be assured that we have reviewed all of the input you provided, and are taking it into consideration as we assess and evaluate potential changes to our plan. As I stated earlier in this message, the guidance and direction we are receiving changes on a daily basis. That is not a criticism, but more the reality of a situation that has proven to be increasingly impossible to predict. For example, the College Board announced today that it intends to administer 45-minute online AP exams (https://bit.ly/3drqd5E), and the federal government is waiving the standardized testing requirement (https://bit.ly/2U4pj7j). You have my word that we will figure out the grading issue, and will come up with a solution that best meets the needs of every student we serve. With that said, if you have any additional insights you wish to share as we work toward this solution, please email them to me and I will forward them to my team.

In the meantime, I want to restate the three things from my update yesterday that I implore you to continue doing while our schools are closed.

1. Remain engaged in e-learning. Please continue to participate in all aspects of our e-learning plan (e.g., attendance, completing assignments, etc.). Doing so will aid the conversation we are having about grading, and help us revise our plans should the state-mandated closure be extended beyond March 30.

2. Commit to social distancing. It is imperative that you stop gathering in large groups, especially in light of the increase in confirmed cases we have seen at the state, local and national level. Doing this will not only keep you healthy and safe, it will help better protect your friends, family and community.

3. Engage in self-care on daily basis. Take a walk. Read a book. Rest your body and your mind. Do whatever you need to do to stay focused on what is truly most important…taking care of yourself and your loved ones.

I have always been impressed by the hard work, brilliance and maturity of our students. However, the grit and determination you have shown in the face of this crisis have been both humbling and inspiring. With that said, please know that the members of your school family (e.g., teachers, social workers, administrators, etc.) are here to help you in any way that we can. I firmly believe that we can overcome anything if we stick together and continue to support each other.

Stay safe and be well.

Tammy Prentiss
Superintendent