Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Message from the Superintendent (04-01-20)

On March 31, 2020, Governor Pritzker announced that Illinois will continue its suspension of in-person instruction through April 30, 2020. A return to school date has yet to be established. District 153 will begin our remote leaning program on Monday, April 6th.

We acknowledge this has been a challenging, difficult, and stressful time for our entire community. I think we are all saddened and disappointed by the loss of educational and extra-curricular opportunities for our students.

As this situation is different from anything anyone has ever encountered, the social-emotional well-being of our students and staff is our primary concern. Any students in need of social-emotional support should email their school principal or leave a message at 708-799-8721.

While there is no replacement for face-to-face learning, I’m encouraged by the efforts of our teachers, students, and parents during this exceptional time. I thank you all for your flexibility, patience, and compassion as we transition to this new way of teaching, learning, and caring.

Strong communication between school and home will be more important than ever before as we move to this new phase of your child’s education. We will be sending you lots of information over the next few days in preparation for remote learning. Please check your email and/or voicemail regularly. Read and listen to every message thoroughly.

Thank you for your support and partnership as we all make our way in this new world of remote learning.

An Update from Dr. Mitchell: Remote Learning to Start April 6th

Superintendent's Letter of 03-24-20

Dear Parents and Guardians:

How are you? After week one, I know that our teachers and staff are really missing our students and are wishing everything could return to normal. When I get frustrated or down about being isolated from staff and students, I have found it helpful to remind myself why all these efforts are necessary-- to give our dedicated and selfless health care personnel a fighting chance to combat this disease.

As you probably already know from the news, Governor Pritzker issued a state-wide “stay at home” order on Friday that will remain effective through the end of Tuesday, April 7th. All Illinois schools are closed under the stay-at-home order. Therefore, the new tentative reopening date of District 153 schools is now Wednesday, April 8th.

Our number one immediate priority has been to ensure our students don’t go hungry. Through April 7th, District 153, working in partnership with District 161, will continue to provide free sack lunches to any student who needs it. Here’s the lunch program schedule for the next two weeks:
 
  • Three lunches (for the remainder of this week) can be picked up on Wednesday, March 25th, 11:00 AM- 1:00 PM at James Hart at the HF Sports. Please note that there is no lunch pickup on Friday, March 27th.
  • Next week, Flossmoor 161 will take a turn providing lunches on Monday, March 30 (pick up two lunches) and Wednesday, April 1 (pick up three lunches), 10:00 AM-12 NOON, at Parker Jr. High. Please enter the Parker parking lot from Flossmoor Road (enter the wrong way) and drive through to the north side of the lot at School Street and wait for a staff member to direct you. Do not exit your vehicle.

I emphasized tentative reopening above because what happens beyond April 7th is anyone’s guess. We anticipate further guidance and details from the Illinois State Board of Education this week and will share more information with you when we have it.

Nonetheless, District 153 is trying to prepare for the worst case scenario: remote learning for an extended period. Staff is working to create a new system of learning for our students outside the school buildings that is workable, although we cannot pretend that any remote learning strategy is a worthy substitute for in-person instruction with our outstanding educators. This week, our staff will be reaching out to our families to gauge student needs as they relate to device ownership and internet access at home.

YOUR “HOMEWORK”

Please use the next two weeks to focus on staying safe and helping to slow the spread of the virus. Review materials with your student(s) and keep them reading as best you can. Visit our Home Learning Enrichment Center for ideas and activities.

The week of March 30 through April 3 has been designated as our spring break. We strongly encourage you to continue to explore our on-line enrichment learning materials, but do not expect communication from teachers during this week.

Please remember that our three schools are closed, but the district office is being staffed with limited personnel in case of an emergency. Please email, schoolclosure@hsd153.org, or call 708-799-8721 if you need additional assistance.

As always, thank you for your patience and support as we work through the COVID-19 Pandemic. This situation is evolving rapidly, but as events unfold, we will continue to communicate in a timely and transparent manner.
 
Stay home and stay safe,
Dr. Dale Mitchell, Superintendent

Three Important Updates from District 153 (on 03-16-20)

(1) SCHOOL CLOSURES
Other than lunch service (see below), all District 153 schools will be closed completely through March 30th, as a result of the Governor’s statewide closure orders. We had hoped to have all the school offices open on Tuesday for families to retrieve students’ personal belongings. That is now not possible. We are sorry for the inconvenience.

In keeping with the state’s school closure order and CDC guidelines, the District Office will have only a minimal number of staff working Monday-Friday, 8:00 AM-3:00 PM. If you have a question or need support of some kind, please contact us via the email and telephone number below, and someone will respond as soon as possible.

Email: schoolclosure@hsd153.org
Telephone: 708-799-8721
 
(2) FREE LUNCHES AVAILABLE TO DISTRICT 153 STUDENTS STARTING TUESDAY, MARCH 17
All District 153 students (EC/PreK-8th grade) will be able to pick-up a free sack lunch starting tomorrow, Tuesday, March 17th. The free lunch program will run Monday-Friday through the remainder of our emergency school closure period. See below for lunch pick-up dates.

Where:   James Hart School, please enter through the SPORTS COMPLEX doors (Door “O”) at 18211 Aberdeen St.
What:     Assorted sandwiches and wraps with milk. All lunches will be nut-free and follow National School Lunch Program guidelines.
When:    11:00 AM-1:00 PM (see schedule below)
Schedule:
  • Tuesday, March 17 Pick up a lunch for Tuesday
  • Wednesday, March 18 Pick up three lunches for the rest of the week, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
  • Monday, March 23 Pick up two lunches for Monday and Tuesday
  • Wednesday, March 25 Pick up two lunches for Wednesday and Thursday
  • Friday, March 27 Pick up one lunch for Friday
  • Monday, March 30 Pick up two lunches for Monday and Tuesday
  • Wednesday, April 1 Pick up two lunches for Wednesday and Thursday
  • Friday, April 3 Pick up one lunch for Friday
 
(3) HOME LEARNING ENRICHMENT ACTIVITIES AVAILABLE ON WEDNESDAY, MARCH 18
 
District 153 will launch its new web page containing home learning enrichment activities by Wednesday, March 18th at 2:00 PM. Look for another email with the launch announcement and more details.

The Governor’s school closure orders designate March 17-30 as “Act of God” school closures. Therefore, these activities will be considered as “enrichment” only. They are not mandatory and will not be counted toward a grade. This home learning packet is created solely to help District 153 families keep their students busy and engaged during the shutdown.

District 153 Schools Closed March 16-April 3

Dear Parents and Guardians,

To safeguard the health and wellness of students, staff and our community at-large, District 153 has decided to close our schools beginning on Monday, March 16, 2020 through Friday April 3, 2020.
 
While we know this is an unprecedented decision, these are unprecedented times. We have not been notified of any staff or student being diagnosed with COVID-19, but we think the evidence is increasingly clear that status may not last very long. After much agonizing thought and in keeping with CDC recommendations to limit or cancel gatherings of large groups, we thought it better to close our schools now rather than later to help slow the spread of the disease.
 
This decision was not made lightly. We are fully aware of the complications and hardships that this will cause in the lives of students,staff and their families. Nonetheless, we believe as a public school system that we have a shared responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of the greater HF community. We hope our families and community will be able to make whatever plans are necessary to cope with this emergency closure.
 

So now what happens?

We will be sending 3rd-8th grade students home today with materials they may need for a prolonged absence from school. School offices will be open on Monday (3-16) and Tuesday (3-17) from 8:00-10:00 AM and 1:00-3:00 PM for parents to pick up student medications, if necessary, or any other left-behind items.
 
Annual special education review meetings that were scheduled during the week of March 16-20 will be re-scheduled.
 

Our emergency closure plan

March 16
• Non-attendance day. No school. This day will be made up on April 13th.
March 17
• Non-attendance day/Election Day. No school.
March 18- 20
• Emergency school closure. Days will be made up on June 8, 9, and 10.
March 23-27
• Spring Break/No classes
March 30-April 3
• Enrichment Days. Students complete educational enrichment activities provided by District 153. Details to come.
April 6
• School resumes, if public health conditions permit.
 

Clarification to remaining 2019-2020 school calendar

April 10
• School closed for Good Friday
April 13
• Schools are open/regular attendance day
June 10
• Last day of school
 
We will continue to share information and update families you throughout the days and weeks ahead. Thank you for patience, understanding, and flexibility as we try to do our very best for our students, schools, and community.
 
Sincerely,
Dr. Dale Mitchell, Superintendent

Superintendent's Letter of March 12, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,
 
District 153 realizes the concern and anxiety that you may be feeling about the coronavirus, COVID-19. Because we share those concerns, I wanted to provide an update about what we know and what we’re doing in District 153 to try to stay safe and healthy.
 
The good news (so far) is that we don’t have any reports of a District 153 student or staff member with the virus. I want to thank you for all your efforts to reinforce good hygiene practices at home with your students. We are very grateful for your support and cooperation.
 

Event Cancellations

At this time, however, larger gatherings are being discouraged, so we are cancelling all evening activities this week and next out of an abundance of caution. Tonight’s Kindergarten Orientation at Willow School and Never Give Up Awards at Churchill were cancelled. Also cancelled are the Family Cultural Night (3-18) and the All-District Fine Arts Show (3-19). We’ll re-evaluate evening events after spring break.
 
In addition, we will also be cancelling through April 3rd all scheduled activities that involve taking our students outside the school buildings, such as field trips.
 
Sponsoring organizations have been cancelling other activities. IESA has cancelled athletic events for the foreseeable future including the state volleyball tournament that involves both boys’ and girls’ teams from James Hart. The Illinois Grade School Music Association has cancelled this weekend’s District Band Contest.
 
After-school activities and clubs for students will continue as normal for the time being.
 
Please know that we’re continuing to do all we can. Our nurses are keeping tabs on absences, and we continue to aggressively clean and disinfect our buildings with special attention given to frequently touched surfaces.
 
We also created a “Frequently Asked Questions” document that we’ll update as necessary. It contains District 153’s current practices and best thinking on topics such as school closings and quarantines. You’ll find it here on our newly-created webpage where we are also posting links to additional resources that we think may be helpful to our community.
 
If you have a question to suggest for this FAQ, let me know. Please bear in mind that we may not have an answer to every question. We’re new to this, too, but we are doing our very best to stay on top of the latest information.
 
While we cannot know what comes next with this virus, I know well the resiliency and determination of the Homewood community. I’m hopeful about our ability to get through this public health crisis if we keep working together.
 
Sincerely,
Dr. Dale Mitchell, Superintendent

Superintendent's Letter of March 3, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,
 
With reports of the coronavirus (COVID-19) dominating the news, I thought it might be good time to remind our families of best-practice preventive safety measures that can be practiced at home and are being practiced in District 153 schools.
 
Currently, there are a limited number of diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, including in Illinois. However, health officials expect the virus to spread throughout the country. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has just issued guidance to school districts about the coronavirus. The CDC list mostly includes actions that District 153 already is taking, including:
 
• Collaborating with our local public health department to share information
• Reinforcing with both staff and students the importance of frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes and avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth
• Continually monitoring the numbers and types of student and staff absences due to illness, looking for worrisome trends (so far, we’re seeing nothing unusual)
• Keeping students and staff who become sick at school separate until they can leave
• Continue routine cleanings of frequently touched items like door handles and desktops
 
While it’s premature to consider school closings, District 153 will monitor and report our attendance to state health authorities and follow their instructions. Any school closures will be communicated via our emergency phone line, the parent portal, our website (hsd153.org), and social media.
 
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is recommending that any student returning from mainland China on February 3, 2020 and onward should not attend school for 14 days after their last contact in China. Family members of these students should not attend work if they also traveled to mainland China.
 
Here are some commonsense actions that you and your family can take for protection:
 
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Stay home when you are sick and keep your child home from school when they are sick.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
 
While the coronavirus news is concerning, it is important to point out that, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, there are other respiratory viruses like influenza currently circulating in Illinois. Fever, coughing, and difficulty breathing are symptoms associated with all of them. Therefore, anyone exhibiting these symptoms should not be assumed to have COVID-19. If your student, or anyone in your family, develops such symptoms, we urge you to contact your medical provider immediately.
 
We will strive to keep you abreast of any new information. Our best chance of staying healthy is for our District 153 family to work together and take sensible precautions. I thank you, in advance, for your cooperation.
 
Sincerely,
Dr. Dale Mitchell, Superintendent