Monday, June 29, 2020

Reopening update

Dear East Prairie families,

We hope the first few weeks of summer find you healthy, happy, and enjoying the gift of summer!  This past week, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced guidelines that will allow schools to resume in-person instruction safely for the upcoming 2020-21 school year.  A full return to our “normal” school environment is not likely until Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois plan, which is likely still  several months away.  All schools in Illinois serving Pre-K through grade 12 must follow these guidelines; mandates include: appropriate social distancing, face coverings, enhanced sanitation, screening procedures, and other accommodating measures.  See STARTING THE 2020–21 SCHOOL YEAR for a full list of guidance provided by these agencies.

This document will help us begin to answer the critical questions about what the 2020-21 school year will look like in terms of in-person learning, remote learning,  or a blended model, as well as, scheduling, transportation, PPE and face coverings, social distancing and other measures intended to keep everyone safe and healthy, while also re-engaging students in the learning process.  We will rely on this detailed guidance, and other expected updates, as we begin to transition to next school year, holding the health and safety of our students and community first and foremost.

Moving forward, we will reach out with timely communication  as we develop and finalize specific plans for what school at East Prairie will look like in the fall.  We are keenly aware of the urgent need to communicate with families about what to expect next school year and anticipate releasing our own transition plan as soon as possible.  Furthermore, we will be reaching out soon with ways we seek to involve families in this process.  Your input and perspective is essential to us serving our EPS community to the fullest extent possible. 

As you may already know, our district began preparing for reopening this spring and has formed reopening committees that have been brainstorming potential options and plans.  This most recent guidance will accelerate those conversations, and we are confident in our ability to put forth a plan that prioritizes the health and safety of our learning community while maintaining a dynamic learning environment for all students.  Again, we will be reaching out for parental input in July to further guide our planning efforts.

While we work on developing a plan that returns students to as much in person instruction as possible, we must comply with ISBE and IDPH mandates.  In order to help our families plan for the start of next year, we are advising families to be prepared for a scenario where your child may not attend school every day when school begins.  While no final decision has been made, and the guidance is expected to evolve, we would rather have you plan for this possibility proactively.  

Thank you for your patience, understanding, flexibility, and grace as our district navigates the challenges of this pandemic.  We are committed to collaboration as we diligently work to ensure our plans best serve the unique needs of our East Prairie community. We will continue to keep you updated throughout this process and will share more  specific plans as they are developed.  In the meantime, we wish you a safe, happy, and healthy summer!

In partnership,
The East Prairie Team

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Construction update

Construction is nearing completion!  Thank you for staying off the equipment and out of the area until it is safe to do so.  We look forward to enjoying this beautiful space all together soon!

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Friday, June 5, 2020

End-of-year letter

Dear East Prairie families,

As we officially conclude the 2019-20 school year, we want to take a moment to step back, reflect, and recognize the many accomplishments of our school.  As a community, we united together to ensure that each child was safe, cared for, and continued to learn under new, ever-evolving, and challenging circumstances.  These sustained, collective efforts speak to the qualities ingrained in our East Prairie community that make our school truly one of a kind!

We began this year by not just opening up a new school, but by embracing all of the potential and possibility that lie within such an incredible community investment.  We have committed ourselves to ensuring that every child, family, educator, and community member feels welcome, safe, and valued in this space.  We implemented RULER as a framework to support social-emotional learning PreK through 8th grade, and created common expectations to teach, reteach, and model positive behavior throughout the building.  Through intergrade level activities, team building activities, pep rallies, and daily classroom practices, we expanded the ways in which our students interact and relate to one another.  

This same desire to connect and further build community extended to our families as well.  This year we welcomed the Parent Mentor Program to EPS, introducing a new model of parent engagement for us to build upon.  We took on a leadership role within the township to address critical issues and foster community-building initiatives.  We expanded our family engagement events to better serve the unique needs of our community.  The response, support, and involvement has been astounding!  We aimed to communicate in clear and effective ways to ensure that every family and community member knew the many wonderful and transformative happenings of our school.  Above all, we did this together (and before March)!

When pandemic struck, we pulled together in unconventional and even more inventive ways.  We worked together to ensure that every child and every family had the essential materials and resources needed to support themselves.  Technology, food, and financial resources were shared, all while we collaboratively developed a new model of education for our students.  While the manner in which our students learn changed in an instant, the tighter connection of home and the school enabled us to accomplish significant social, emotional, and academic outcomes for our children.  We gathered, learned, laughed, cried, problem-solved, struggled, celebrated, and persevered together!  This is no small accomplishment.  It is one we must all recognize and celebrate!

As we transition to an uncertain summer and fall, we are keenly aware of the many challenges and longer-term impact and implications of this time away from school for children and families.  We will continue to work together to devise innovative solutions to support the growth and development of each child.  We also believe that through challenge, tremendous opportunity exists.  The schools we left in early March will be very different than those we ultimately return to.  At East Prairie, we are committed to this time being a moment of transformative change.  We will build upon the very best of our practices, while developing new structures, strategies, and supports for the areas we can and must do better.  Our team is committed to serving your children, your family, and our community to the very best of our ability.  We are confident in the strength and possibility of our partnership.  Thank you again for your support, energy, and effort throughout the entirety of this year!

In partnership,
The East Prairie Team

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Chalk Art Challenge

Calling all artists!  Today we kick off the first ever EPS Chalk Art Challenge!  The process couldn’t be simpler: pick-up chalk, imagine, create, post, and repeat!  Chalk will be available for all families during our final Curbside Library pick-up today, 11:00AM to noon.  We will then keep the box of chalk outside by door 14 (Dobson Street) until the final piece is gone. 
Please post your chalk creations to our EPS Padlet wall, and our staff will then vote on their favorite.   We will share out the top creations in a special message to all families. #pantherpride

Monday, June 1, 2020

A message to our community

Dear East Prairie families,

Over this past year, it has become abundantly clear that the people, relationships and an unwavering focus on children make East Prairie the incredibly special and unique community it is.  The diversity of our community is our most remarkable strength.  Each day, our East Prairie community learns from, with, and alongside one another, which we view as an incredible gift - and one that benefits both children and adults.  

These opportunities are also complex and laden with challenge.  Our school, like every public institution, has a responsibility to ensure we meet the needs of every family and every child - ensuring access and opportunity to the highest-quality educational experiences imaginable.  We approach this work each day with humility and an enormous sense of responsibility.

At East Prairie we are committed to ensuring that every child, every parent, every family, and every community member feel safe, valued, and included.  We strive to openly, earnestly, and collaboratively address the very real challenges and issues facing our school and community.  We know that despite our best intentions, and perhaps because of them, ensuring educational equity for every one of our students is a daily endeavor, requiring constant care and attention.  

The challenges our society faces and is grappling with at this moment were not born in an instant.  These challenges developed over generations of time.  Racism is a complex system of social and political ideas and mechanisms that serve to benefit some at the expense - and life - of others.  Racism is beyond a duality.  Racism is more than hate, extending to access, privilege, opportunity, ignorance, and apathy.  As individuals, as a school, and as a community, we must come together to confront racism, racist behavior, and racist policies.  As a community, we must be explicit about what we believe and stand for, giving voice to our shared values.  We must be able to discuss, consider, and act upon these matters both collectively and as individuals.

Below are resources to support an entry way into engaging in a dialogue  with your family and within your sphere of influence.  These are by their very nature difficult conversations to have, which is why we so often avoid having them to begin with.  It is our hope that these strategies, principles and protocols provide you a point of entry.  Courage and a willingness to experience discomfort are also essential.

Each of us has an important role to play in making sure our school, community, and broader shared world are just and equitable.  This work is not easy, but is urgent - requiring time, effort, attention and action of us all.   It is through these conversations, considerations, and most importantly actions, that we begin to shape a brighter future for everyone.

In partnership,