August Community Message

August Community Message
Posted on 08/02/2021
News

East Prairie Community,

I hope you and your family have had a restful and relaxing summer. Most importantly, I hope you and your family are safe and healthy. 


The month of August creates an incredible buzz at school and undoubtedly in the homes of our students. Students begin to wonder who their teacher will be, how they will find a classroom, and which friends they will see at school. Parents wonder how we will make pickup and drop-off arrangements work for our students, will they make friends and feel supported, and are our children ready for the academic demands of a higher grade level. Our staff feels the same excitement and nervousness. We think daily about meeting our students and making them feel welcome, trying to find enough time to have every detail in our classroom ready, and striving to meet with all of our colleagues to ensure we are ready to help every child succeed. This buzz is only amplified by the challenges of the pandemic, but I can assure you, our team is laser focused on making the beginning of the year the best one yet for our students.


We remain steadfastly focused on the science in our area and the recommendations of the Skokie Health Department (SHD), the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), and the Center for Disease Control and Public Health (CDC). Our top priority is to ensure the health and safety of our students, staff, and community while delivering in-person instruction that offers our students the full gamut of academic, social-emotional, and extracurricular activities we all desire at East Prairie. Doing so will certainly require some differences, adaptations, and safety protocol relative to a “traditional” school year.


While a final plan for mask wearing in school will be communicated in mid-August, we are committed to following the safety recommendations of the SHD, IDPH, and CDC. As of the time I write this memo, the SHD, IDPH, and CDC recommend all students and staff wear masks during school while inside regardless of vaccine status. The following mitigations will be in place:

 

• Continued emphasis on cleaning and disinfecting protocols, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.
Continued maximization of our state of the art air filtration system.

Continued social distancing of 3-6 feet wherever possible.

Communicate positive cases of COVID-19 to parents and staff.  Individuals who are sick or develop symptoms should remain home.  Situational quarantine and isolation is still required consistent with SHD/IDPH/CDC guidance.

Continue to collaborate with the health department around reporting of new cases and in conducting contact tracing in our school.  

Optional COVID-19 Testing for all non-vaccinated staff and students.

Masking is required while riding District-provided transportation.

 

SHIELD Illinois saliva PCR surveillance testing administered weekly to identify pre- and asymptomatic individuals.

 

Our Board-Parent-Teacher Subcommittee which met last year will soon reconvene to review our mitigation plan and assess the spread of the virus in our area. We will communicate further details from this meeting in mid-August. 


As you saw above, East Prairie 73 has partnered with SHIELD Illinois to provide free COVID-19 testing to all unvaccinated students and staff. SHIELD Illinois is a testing program that deploys the University of Illinois’ innovative PCR COVID SHIELD saliva test across the state. The test has an FDA authorization (EUA) for asymptomatic & symptomatic individuals. It is a diagnostic test that can be used for screening. Please refer to this SHIELD Illinois Overview for more details. 


SHIELD testing of unvaccinated individuals is an extremely helpful mitigation that will allow us to reduce the spread of COVID-19. As the parent/guardian, you have the option to opt-out of testing using this SHIELD COVID-19 Testing Opt-Out Form. If you would like to opt-out of COVID-19 SHIELD testing, please return this form to our office before your child’s first day of school. Please be aware that in some instances, SHIELD testing may reduce the need to quarantine as stated by the IDPH. We will share more details about testing as the school year approaches.


As your superintendent and the parent to three children, I recognize the difficult choices we are making at this time. If we can clarify any details or support your family in any way, please contact us at your earliest convenience.


As was noted in previous communications, we are welcoming a number of new staff this year. I will highlight two of them and Dr. Schmeisser will highlight others in future memos. Jackie Griffin has joined us from Kildeer School District 96 to serve as our Professional Learning and Curriculum Coordinator. She has already begun supporting our staff with many professional development sessions later this summer. She will oversee our curriculum and professional learning endeavors as we strive to ensure the highest levels of learning for our students. Vernessa Stepney has joined our team from Evanston District 65 as the Student Services Coordinator. Vernessa will oversee our special education program, preschool program, and 504 plans amongst many other areas. Vernessa has been hard at work reviewing our programming and the needs of our students. If you have a child with special needs or a 504 plan, look for an introductory letter from Vernessa soon. I know both Jackie and Vernessa will be warmly welcomed by the East Prairie community and will be incredible assets to our team. 


Dr. Schmeisser will soon update you about our August events and other beginning of the year details, but I wanted to remind everyone of our August 18 Grand Opening of East Prairie event occurring at 3:30 p.m. in the courtyard. 


We can’t wait to welcome everyone back to school this month. Take care.


Sincerely,

Paul Goldberg