I’m Lisa Small, Superintendent of High School District 211. I hope you’re having a wonderful summer!
Across the District, summer has been a time for renewal and anticipation. Construction projects are ongoing at each of our schools to make sure our facilities continue to be outstanding places to teach and learn. Our leadership teams are working on ways to make sure students are even more connected and prepared for success when they return.
As we get ready to welcome many of you back again and also welcome thousands of freshmen for the first time, I wanted to update you on some key items related to the new school year.
First, I’d like to address and reaffirm our commitment to safety and security.
Our current procedures and protocols follow best practice research, but we also continue to explore new technologies, protocols and resources to keep our schools safe. This is a top priority.
The most effective way to best ensure safety is to prevent the conditions that perpetuate it. This is a shared responsibility across our community. Overwhelmingly, research into school safety illustrates the need for supportive learning environments. All District 211 schools emphasize positive school culture and initiatives that promote this. We take time to make sure students feel a sense of belonging. If students are struggling or do not feel safe or connected, our safety reporting mechanisms allow staff to act quickly to respond and allow our student support teams to intervene.
This school year, we have partnered with Safe2Help Illinois to provide another mechanism for students to report personal or school safety concerns, in addition to our own D211 safety line. These two resources, along with the National Suicide Hotline, are required by law to be on our student IDs. Your student has an ID issued to them by the first week of school and they are expected to bring it to school every day, just as many of us do at our own work sites.
Partnering with local police, we are exploring technology solutions to improve and expand monitoring capabilities, and are increasing supervision during and after school. We have an outstanding partnership with our police departments, which elevates preparedness.
Our emphasis always is on prevention and intervention. However, our safety planning must reflect practices to respond when safety is compromised.
District 211 emergency response protocols are annually reassessed.Several years ago, we adopted “Run Hide, Survive” to empower students and staff to make decisions that maximize their safety. This model is practiced with our teachers, and District 211 continues to run a minimum of two safety drills every school year. We installed Blue Light stations throughout the schools to eliminate potential delays of putting schools into lockdowns. We are implementing additional monitoring of our entryways and limited access to facilities.
This is not an exhaustive list of all of the ways we work to keep our students safe. There are aspects of school safety that we do not illustrate publicly.
We are committed to continually and proactively researching and updating our practices. We need your support. When parents, students and community members report concerning behavior in advance, tragedies can be averted. We have administrators and staff ready to hear your concerns, investigate potential issues and provide support to students who are struggling. We also ask that you speak with your student about the importance of utilizing our support systems. We have trained counselors, social workers and psychologists to offer assistance. In addition, if students or adults see something, they should say something. We have safety concern buttons installed on all District-issued iPads and available on all our websites.
I know many of you also are wondering about COVID protocols in place this year. We continue to follow the guidance of the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Public Health.
We will be starting the new school year as we ended last school year. Masks will be optional. We will continue to offer rapid COVID tests at school, and PCR testing at the District office during designated times. We ask, as always, that you remain home if you are feeling ill. If your child is experiencing diarrhea, vomiting or a fever, they must remain home until they are free of the symptoms for 24 hours.
The minimum quarantine of five days will remain in effect for those testing positive, and we will continue to notify via email those in a class or on a team with a positive individual. We will continue to ventilation up to health department COVID standards, diligently clean and disinfect our buildings, and provide masks and sanitizing stations.
I am so proud of all of you for your continued patience and understanding. If you have specific concerns regarding your child, please reach out to an administrator at your school for individual assistance.
Finally, I’m pleased to report that our Board of Education has adopted a new strategic plan that will guide our District 211 Learning Community for the next five years, through 2027.
This plan was the result of input from more than 1,500 stakeholders, including many of you. The process was led by a steering committee that included parents, students, staff and community members. Taking into account the results of the community survey last fall and focus groups this spring, the steering committee examined our mission and values and recommended outstanding goals and priorities for consideration by our Board of Education.
The plan focuses on 11 priorities, spanning academics, wellness and involvement as well as facilities, safety, technology, finances, professional development and communications. These are aligned with goals, strategies and targets to help us succeed. A link to our plan is included in this newsletter. You also can go to our website and select “Strategic Plan” under the “Parents,” “Board of Education” or “Community” tabs.
Our staff will work daily to execute and build on this plan. Along the way, you may hear of more opportunities to become involved in committees or advisories. We value your input. District 211 already is an outstanding place to learn and we are excited to move forward together.
Thank you all for being a part of our District 211 learning community. We finished last year strong, and we go into this fall with positive momentum and much pride, as well as the drive to make sure every one of our students is prepared for their future.
At the bottom of this shortened newsletter, you’ll find additional links for helpful information. Please check them out.
I am so excited for all that lies ahead this academic year.
We’ll see you soon.