Local superintendents respond after Gov. Pritzker closes Illinois schools for the academic year

Superintendents Dr. Darcy Benway and Carrie Hruby presented at a March 12 COVID-19 preparedness meeting, the day before Governor Pritzker’s first closed schools to in-person learning.

By Angela Simmons, Weekly Editor

Local school districts are responding to Governor JB Pritzker’s announcement that he would close all Illinois schools to in-person learning for the rest of the academic year.

The governor said his decisions were based in science, and coming in the same conference as an announcement of the largest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases, he said students couldn’t safely resume their normal routines.

In a statement, Dr. Darcy Benway, Superintendent of OTHS District 203 said reminded students and families that school will continue via remote learning. She addressed several groups of people in the district, sharing in their sense of loss and thanking families for support.

“To our students: We are so disappointed that we will not see you in person for the remainder of this school year. We sincerely miss you and are thinking about you. Keep up the great work on your lessons, as that effort will benefit you in the future. I know you may have questions regarding what will occur for the rest of the year, including plans for final exams. Your patience is appreciated as we determine our path forward.

To our seniors: We are heartbroken that celebratory events and activities to close out your senior year will have to be altered. We are also distraught that we will not be able to say our good-byes to you in person as you continue your journey to the next steps in your life. I am sure this announcement has created questions regarding the fate of events related to the close out of the school year. School leaders are focusing their efforts to consider options to recognize your accomplishments and to celebrate the Class of 2020.

To our families: Thank you for your support during this time of remote learning. As we close out the school year, your partnership is instrumental in the success of our students and our efforts to serve them. I know there are questions regarding the refund of fees paid for spring sports that have not occurred, and questions related to grades, summer school, and learning moving forward. Your patience is appreciated as we work through each issue.

To our employees: Thank you for all of your efforts to take care of our students, and to take care of each other. You continue to provide excellence in education under very difficult circumstances. You are the backbone of all that makes OTHS the great school that it is.

During the Governor’s press conference today, State Superintendent, Dr. Carmen Ayala, noted that the Illinois State Board of Education will be providing guidance to school districts in the near future. This guidance is anticipated to address some of the questions related to today’s announcement on closures. Once any definitive plans and/or decisions have been formulated, OTHS will immediately share that information with our students and families.

Please keep in mind, the final chapter of this school year hasn’t been written yet. These past few weeks have proven our school community is more resilient, more capable and more compassionate than maybe what we previously realized. I’m confident our collective strength will shine through during the remainder of the school year, and we will emerge even stronger.

Thank you again for your patience, support, and partnership. I can’t thank you enough for all that you are doing as we all work together through this,” said Dr. Benway.

O’Fallon Community Consolidated School District 90 quoted Governor Pritzker, and echoed his sentiments.

“‘To our students of all ages…YOU will be the ones to see us through this…I can’t wait to see all that you will do.’ –Gov. Pritzker

You–Students–are our future! You are our future leaders and our future heroes. We are proud of you for your continued dedication to remote learning. We can do this, D90,” wrote Superintendent Carrie Hruby.

Central School District 104 Superintendent Dawn Elser wrote “I assure you our entire staff remains committed to learning and engaging with all students through remote learning, as well as continuing with our food distribution program.

Like you, we are saddened by the reality that our school community will not be able to reconvene in person this school year due to this public health crisis. So many of you have worked so hard to learn and grow in both the classroom and in extracurricular activities that today’s announcement may feel like a step back.

However, the final chapter of this school year hasn’t been written yet. These past few weeks have proven our school community is more resilient, more capable and more compassionate than maybe what we previously realized. I’m confident our collective strength will shine through during the remainder of the school year, and we will emerge even stronger.

Having said that, today’s announcement will result in significant and multiple scheduling changes in our district. As this announcement about the end of the school year was just made by Governor Pritzker this afternoon, it will take us a few days to sort out the many schedule details that are on the books, including spring concerts, field trips, promotion, graduation, etc. We will also need to develop a plan for distributing Spring pictures, collecting belongings, cleaning out lockers, etc. Please be patient as we work as a district to get information to you in the next several weeks.

I know this is not the school year that any of us imagined, but I want to thank you for your patience and understanding as we have dealt with this unprecedented situation together. This period of Remote Learning offers us new ways to learn and grow, and out of this Pandemic, we will emerge stronger. Plans will be underway soon for the return to in-person learning next school year.

It’s important we continue to work together and support our students. I can’t thank you enough for all that you are doing as we all work together through this.”

Shiloh District 85 Superintendent Dale Sauer wrote “At this time, Shiloh plans to continue to support our students through the District’s Remote Learning Plan for the remainder of the school year, which is May 22nd.

As a school district our priorities remain:

1st – Feed and care for the extended safety, health, and welfare of our students, families, non-student children, staff, and community at large.

2nd – Provide continuity of learning focused on critical standards and minimize instructional loss through remote learning.

Our meal distribution has been very successful, and we have served hundreds of meals a week since mid-March.  This would not be possible without the hard work of our food service employees, our support staff, and faculty who help make it happen.

Monday begins another two-week increment of remote learning, and we thank everyone for their patience and efforts to navigate this new course together. We understand that everyone is doing the best they can and will continue to support everyone’s best efforts throughout this process.

I will continue to update you with specific details for the implications of this decision on our district, students, and families. In the coming weeks, we will begin to address several end of the year events and celebrations that will need to be postponed or cancelled.

Though this announcement may not come as a surprise to some, to others this is now realization that the end of the school year will be different than what we would have hoped. As we have in the last month, we will continue to face this reality together.”

All parents of schoolchildren should check their official means of communication with their students’ district for details moving forward.