Update from District 39

Update from District 39
Posted on 02/13/2022

I want to start by expressing my gratitude for your partnership and support of District 39, our schools and, most importantly, our students and staff. While the last two years have certainly presented plenty of challenges, the collective spirit of our learning community has allowed us to continue to provide a first-class education to our students.

Last Friday’s court ruling in Sangamon County regarding mask mandates has been widely discussed and broadly publicized. Wilmette District 39 was not named in the lawsuit and the motions for class certification in these cases were denied. The ruling has no direct legal impact on our district and mandated COVID-19 mitigation measures still apply. Nonetheless, we have continued our work in reviewing our COVID-19 mitigation strategies and developing an “off ramp” plan for when local control in these decisions is granted. We have been listening to community feedback regarding current mitigation measures and have also been consulting with neighboring districts, the health department, and our own legal counsel as we prepare, not only for the outcome of the appeals, but also for how we move forward flexibly and deliberately in the current COVID-19 environment.

Given the encouraging progression of local metrics (D39 Metrics Page) and in anticipation of increased local control, it remains critical for us to continue our review of COVID-19 strategy with an aim toward reduced mitigations in support of our students’ academic progress and social-emotional health, while maintaining stability for in-person programming and keeping our school and community safe. We have continued to work on a comprehensive plan that would provide details for an “off ramp” of current mitigation measures, including universal masking.
 

REDUCED MITIGATION PLAN IN PREPARATION FOR LOCAL CONTROL 

The District’s Administrative Team, in consultation with New Trier Township Superintendents, is developing a draft reduced mitigation plan for community and staff review. After review of this plan by the Board of Education at the Committee of the Whole Meeting on Monday, February 14, the administration, in partnership with union leadership, will be meeting with staff over the next week to gather feedback on the proposed plan and how it can best be implemented. The Board will also seek input and feedback from families and the community at large via an online survey. This plan will connect school and local positivity rates, vaccination rates and other factors to masking requirements and options. We are preparing for implementation of reduced mitigation measures when local authority is granted to school districts.  

The following factors/metrics make review of mitigation strategies timely:

  • Encouraging progression of local metrics (also tracked on our D39 Metrics Page
  • Decreased case count and community transmission rates
  • Increased access to vaccinations and increasing vaccination rates among staff and students
  • Continued layers of multiple forms of mitigation 
  • Free D39 PCR testing options available for all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status
  • Ongoing promotion of effective health strategies, including isolation of positive cases
  • Responsible and ongoing personal health monitoring by all stakeholders
  • Regular monitoring of case counts and other data on the D39 Metrics Page  
  • Increasing vaccination rates within the Wilmette community (77.3%, with more than 90% having received at least their first dose) and among our school populations (98% for staff, 76% for students 12+, and 59% for students 5-11 years old)
  • Anticipation of increased local control of decision-making and mitigation planning
  • Anticipation of changes in CDC and IDPH guidance regarding COVID-19 mitigation measures, including indoor masking
  • A commitment to maintaining stability and deliberate planning for in-person teaching and learning that support our students’ academic progress and social-emotional health, while keeping our school and community safe.  

It is important to note that the District is drafting this plan based on observed local trends, and it may make changes as conditions evolve. We remain hopeful that revised guidance on reducing mitigation layers will come from the State and/or public health agencies; however, should local control be granted before that time, we are confident that this proposed plan will allow us to move forward safely as a community.  

Upcoming Board Meetings

The Board will be actively seeking community member and staff feedback, review and input on the proposed plan. The following meetings as well as a weeklong review period are planned.

  • Monday, February 14: As previously planned, discussion of mitigation strategies and a draft “off ramp” plan will take place during Monday’s Board of Education Committee of the Whole meeting (Feb. 14, 8 am) at the Mikaelian Education Center (MEC) or via Zoom. 
  • Week of February 14: Following Monday’s discussion, feedback on the “off ramp” plan from teachers, staff, parents and community members will be sought by the Board in advance of taking action to finalize and approve the proposed plan.
  • Tuesday, February 22: Final review and approval of a reduced mitigation plan will be recommended during a Special Board Meeting on Tuesday, February 22 at 7 pm. The Board is expected to discuss and take action on the final proposed plan during this meeting, with the plan set to take effect when the District is able to exercise local control. 

Community members may participate in these meetings either in-person or virtually, and recordings of the meetings will be available for viewing following the meetings. Public comment will be accepted in real-time both in-person and via Zoom, and registration information as well as complete meeting agendas are posted on our District website each Friday in advance of the following week’s meeting. Please note that due to limited space within the Mikaelian Education Center’s Board Room, capacity at Monday’s meeting is limited to 25 community members, and in-person registration for this meeting will open at 4 pm on Friday. In-person capacity will be expanded for the Special Board Meeting on February 22 at WJHS when action on the plan is expected. Anyone who wishes to attend either of these meetings in-person is required to register in advance.

We Need Your Help to Move Forward

We need your help to move forward. Please consider the following:

  • If you have not done so already, please upload your child(ren)’s vaccination status through the “Forms” section of the PowerSchool Parent Portal (form must be completed for each child). Having accurate, up-to-date data is important in our consideration of mitigation revisions. Current vaccination rates of our schools are available on our D39 Metrics Page.
  • Review our current mitigation strategies and the encouraging progression of local metrics, and consider watching the Board discussion during Monday’s meeting via livestream or recording to deepen your understanding of the adjustments under consideration. 
  • Look for a survey next week wherein you can provide the Board with your direct feedback on mitigation strategies and the off ramp plan. If you wish to email the Board directly in advance of that survey, you may do so by emailing [email protected]. Please note that all emails to the Board are considered public documents and are listed under the Written Comments section of the subsequent Board Meeting agenda.
  • Most importantly, continue to support our teachers and students in engaging in a stable and supportive learning environment. The uncertainty of our current environment can be unsettling, and we are asking for your partnership as we seek to provide stability for our students and staff, limit disruption within our schools, continue in-person instruction, and work to thoughtfully and deliberately consider adjustments to our COVID mitigation strategies if/when local control with regard to these decisions is available to us. 

It is our steadfast commitment to prioritize the health and safety of our students and staff, while simultaneously ensuring that in-person learning remains in place and predictable for our students.  As a school community, we are asking for your support, kindness and understanding while we seek stability for our students and staff, deepen our understanding of local control options, and continue to review our comprehensive mitigation plans. We do not want our students or our staff to be subject to confusing shifts as we navigate these unpredictable times. We also want you, our parents and staff, to know what you can expect each day within our schools. The pandemic has required our collective action and partnership to keep our schools and community safe, and we know that together we can continue to successfully navigate these new developments. 

Thank you again for your support and continued partnership. 

Sincerely,

Dr. Kari Cremascoli, Superintendent
Ms. Amy Poehling, School Board President


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