School districts across the state, including in Districts 97 and 200 in Oak Park, are scrambling in response to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s announcement last week that the physical campuses of schools in Illinois will remain closed for the rest of the academic year.
The governor announced the decision at a press conference on April 17.
“I’ve said time and time again, our decisions must follow the science and the science says our students can’t go back to their normal routine this school year,” said Pritzker.
“Over the last month, Illinois’ schools have stepped up and faced the many challenges of COVID-19 with generosity, creativity, and a resolute focus on caring for students, parents and communities,” he said. “I am confident that our schools will manage and expand the learning opportunities for all our children who will be working from home over the coming weeks.”
In response to the governor’s announcement, D200 Supt. Joylynn Pruitt-Adams created an emotional video address that was uploaded to Oak Park and River Forest High School’s YouTube page the same day.
“The news, while important, struck me hard and I can’t even imagine how it must have impacted our faculty and staff, our parents and, most importantly, our students,” Pruitt-Adams said. “If you’re feeling emotional right now, some anxiety, that’s OK. This is new to all of us.”
The announcement means that prom and graduation as those key events have been known to OPRF students for decades will not take place this year, but Pruitt-Adams said that the district’s planning on alternatives to those events “will kick into high gear.”
“To the Class of 2020, I am so very sorry about this news. This is not the way your senior year was supposed to end, and I know you are hurting,” the superintendent said, adding “we will find a meaningful way to celebrate you.”
Remote learning for students in both D200 and D97 will continue as it has since Pritzker announced on March 20 that all schools in the state would close in conjunction with a shelter-in-place order suspending all non-essential activity in the state.
No final exams will be administered at OPRF. The last day of remote learning for all students except seniors will be on May 22, district officials said. The last day for seniors has not yet been established. The last day of remote learn for D97 students is scheduled for June 5, D97 officials said.
In a statement released on the day of Pritzker’s announcement, D97 Supt. Carol Kelley said the district is “currently working through the logistics for” addressing concerns about, and planning alternatives to, “end-of-year celebrations, transitioning students to new schools, retrieving personal items for our buildings, etc.”
Kelley urged parents to fill out the district’s Remote Learning Family Survey, “which will inform our plans moving forward,” she said.
District 200 officials have established a virtual group hangout called “quaranTEENed” for students who may be “feeling bored, lonely, or stressed,” according to a statement in the district’s email newsletter.
Pruitt-Adams said in her video statement that the group chat allows students “to participate in a discussion with your counselor’s and social workers about how you’re feeling at this time.”