Oak Park Elementary School District 97 recently honored Oak Park Public Health Director Theresa Chapple-McGruder with the “Making MyD97 Better Award,” shining a light on her commitment to keep staff and students safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month, co-interim Superintendent Greg Powell presented Chapple-McGruder with a certificate and championed her efforts to prioritize faculty, staff and students’ health, as they returned to the building for full-time, in-person learning this past year.

“She has been right there providing support to make the right decision, to make sure we have an environment that is healthy and safe for our children,” Powell said, adding that over the past months, he had reached out to Chapple-McGruder for questions on COVID-19 mitigations, testings or vaccinations for eligible individuals.

“She provides expertise that is missing in most schools,” he said, “and she’s been somebody that our 10 nurses feel very supported by.”

In November, Chapple-McGruder and the Oak Park Department of Public Health partnered with D97 to roll out eight vaccination clinics over the span of four days. The clinics came on the heels of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s approval of the Pfizer COVID vaccine for children, age 5 to 11. 

Through Chapple-McGruder’s leadership and the aid of school and volunteer medical staff, they were able to administer the two-dose Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to over 2,000 district students.

The district started recognizing school employees, student-led groups and community leaders with the Making MyD97 Better Award in 2019. The award is meant to highlight the work those people do to make D97 a better place and promote inclusivity and belonging, said Amanda Siegfried, the district’s communications director.

Faculty, staff, students and local residents can nominate individuals and fill out the award form sent from the district’s communications department, Siegfried said.

In the past, award recipients have included Charlie Kane, interim building engineer at Lincoln Elementary School; Tim McDonald, a physical education teacher who works with district students who have special needs; Ana Garcia-Doyle, founding member of One Earth Collective in Oak Park; and the Lincoln Tech Club, a group of students who explore the possibilities of digital tools. 

And now Chapple-McGruder is on the list — a fitting addition and tribute, Siegfried and Powell said.

“We just felt we wanted to recognize her and thank her for really going above and beyond to support the district,” Siegfried said.

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