Gower West and Gower Middle School will be closed through the end of the school year.
eLearning will continue Monday – Thursday for our students; leaving Fridays for our Teachers to plan and address individual student needs accordingly. We plan to reserve Friday, May 22nd as an eLearning day designed around a ‘Summer Send Off’ and ‘End of Year Celebration’
As expected, the Governor took statewide action today and announced that the suspension of in-person instruction will continue through the end of the 2019-20 school year. Even though our school buildings will remain closed through this period, Teaching and Learning will continue. Our eLearning Program will continue on a Monday – Thursday schedule until further notice. Our Teachers and Staff will focus on continuity in learning and will remain available from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. each day to help provide ongoing guidance, instruction, and support for our students and families. Remember, the emphasis on the “e” in our e-Learning program is engagement!
Additionally, our Breakfast & Lunch Grab n Go Program will continue throughout the school closure on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from 8:30-10:00 a.m. at Gower West, Door #1. Please continue sharing your feedback by using the eLearning Feedback Form or reach out to us directly.
Gower West School Office – (630) 286-4925; eLearningGW@gower62.com.
Gower Middle School Office – (630) 286-4933; eLearningGM@gower62.com.
District Office – (630) 286-4929
For clarity, the 2019-20 school year will still end on Friday, May 22nd. We understand that there are a number of questions that you may have given this extended school closure period. We have had many questions throughout this adjustment as well and have taken steps to address them. For instance, we are continuously working to include additional activities and resources as our program continues to adjust to meet the needs of our diverse learners (e.g. remediation, wellness, enrichment, etc.). The following questions are important to begin to answer now and we will be sure to follow up as more information becomes available or if there are any notable changes to share.
There are sure to be more questions and we remain committed to providing further updates through our Community Updates and posting to the District News Page at gower62.com/district.
So is my child moving onto the next grade?
The short answer is, “Yes!”. By this time of the year, our staff would have been in direct contact with any family who has a student that is being considered for retention in a particular grade level. That being said, the expectation of our eLearning program is ‘student engagement’. We want to focus on the continuity of learning as to avoid any major gaps in academic progress within and between grades. This is especially important in the early primary grades and our staff continues to do a remarkable job to help make sure we are able to ‘get back to normal’ as quickly as possible once in-person instruction can resume. Our approach is in alignment with the recommendations from the State Board of Education that the ultimate aim needs to be: 1) All students have opportunities for continued learning that focuses on critical standards; 2) Districts work to minimize instructional loss; and 3) Students and families are given routines and structures to ensure they stay connected to schools and learning. If you have any specific concerns about a retention or promotion situation, please contact your school office directly.
What about all of my child’s stuff?
We know that your child has items left behind in their desks and/or their lockers. Please do not worry. Over the next few weeks, we will begin to bag these items and plan for contactless delivery across our community. For any pressing needs for a particular item, please contact your school front office directly. Our classrooms have been vacant for a month with highly restricted access. By bagging an individual student’s items, we can allow our families to take whatever precautionary steps they wish after items are delivered. We understand the tremendous level of concern across our community when it comes to disinfecting and minimizing exposure to the Coronavirus. Principals will follow up with a more detailed schedule of delivery.
What about my child’s Chromebook?
Parent Technology Lending Agreements expire on May 31, 2020. As a convenience to our families, we are automatically extending those agreements until we resume in-person instruction in the 2020-21 school year. If you are not comfortable extending the responsibilities you agreed to beyond May 31, 2020, please contact your school office directly to arrange for a contactless drop off of your device. For our 8th graders, Congratulations! We are giving you your Chromebook as a graduation present. Many of our 8th graders purchase their Chromebooks from us each year for $20. We understand that the end of this year did not turn out as expected and are simply passing along a final ‘Good Thing’ to our graduates. Repair and replacement options will be limited throughout the summer so be sure to take good care of your Chromebook!!! Our internet browsing security program, Go Guardian, will continue to be monitored throughout the summer so please be sure to follow the guidelines in the i3 Learning Initiative packet and make good decisions with your Tech!
What about the End-of-Year Traditions (e.g. 8th Graduation and other celebrations, 4th grade Clap-Out)
This is a really tough question. In Gower, we know that effective teaching and learning is grounded in relationships, relationships, relationships. We take great pride in our focus on the Whole Child and it hurts to know that some of our most special traditions will not be the same this year. The extended school closure has been a major adjustment on so many people and we are working hard to ‘get it right’. Opinions will vary regarding the decisions we ultimately make and it will be difficult, if not impossible, to have full agreement from everyone. Final decisions have not been made on specific activities to date, but it is important to us for you to know that we are working on it. All of these traditions are important and we will focus on providing an experience for our student groups that highlights just how special they are to us. Please feel free to reach out to your school office or the district office directly to share your feedback with us.
What about Summer School and Summer Activities & Programs?
We know that the Governor’s actions have suspended in-person learning through the end of the 2019-20 school year. This means that Summer School and Summer Activities will look very different this year. For Extended School Year (ESY) programs related to students in our Special Education Program, we are currently working with the LaGrange Area Department of Special Education (LADSE) and expect to be able to provide an update for families that might be impacted by April 30th. For our remaining Summer School Programs, we will revisit each one of them and make a decision as to whether they can be offered remotely or will need to be canceled altogether. More information can be expected on this topic in the coming weeks.
What about next year?
With in-person instruction suspended through the end of the 2019-20 school year, our 2020-21 School Calendar has not been impacted. Could it be? Yes. But that would take an extended school closure by public health officials or the Governor. Our Calendar Committee will reconvene prior to the May 19th Board meeting to consider options based upon public health guidelines and recommendations. The Calendar Committee will place an emphasis on maintaining the current Thanksgiving, Winter, and Spring break periods and aligning with the high school calendar. We do know that many of our families count on our breaks remaining consistent and we also know that a number of our families enjoy having our calendar match that of the local high school. If the 2020-21 School Calendar is impacted, it may end up being a situation that calls for a decision that represents a middle ground and ‘best fit’ rather than one that meets the needs of every distinct group across our school community. If you would like to share your feedback regarding the 2020-21 school calendar, please contact the District Office at 630-286-4929 or email our Board Recording Secretary, Angie Herrera, at email@example.com.
And the million dollar question… But isn’t my child going to fall behind?
This is a major concern for our Gower families as well as the Gower Staff. The short, but very real answer is, “Maybe.” The answer is closer to a “yes’ in places without preparation and significant effort and resources needed to provide continuity in learning. The answer is closer to a “no” in places that started with some sort of a plan and are able to couple professional effort and community resources to keep students engaged and learning. Making sure we are part of the latter group is what drives our day-to-day work and is the proverbial ‘thing’ that keeps us up at night. We are doing everything we can to make sure that we minimize any such learning setback and are collecting information through student work and teacher assessments to help answer this question.
We take great pride in our annual student growth reports that indicate that we know how to get ‘more’ than a year’s worth of learning within a given school year’. This is measured by grade level student performance data (NWEA-MAP) that is collected across K-8. Gower consistently performs above the 90th percentile when it comes to growth. Is this the case for every single student? No. But it is the case for most of our students, and when measured collectively, there are few school districts that have the sort of performance track record that can be found in Gower. This is a major advantage for the students in our district and is sure to help mitigate any negative impact that may occur as a result of this lengthy interruption to in-person learning. Another major advantage is our readiness. Gower was the first school district in the state of Illinois to have a fully verified plan for eLearning and we tested it – in real life – a number of times. Our plan was built for short interruptions of course, but it was also built to work during a lengthy school closure. Being ‘first’ isn’t what is valuable here; being prepared is. And Gower staff worked hard – and the Gower Community trusted the process and even participated in a ‘practice eLearning day’ in November – to make sure that we were able to hit the ground running. Some might say those things don’t count for much. We believe that they do.
We are well aware of the reports that indicate that ‘learning loss’ is inevitable. This has been true in the form of the ‘Summer Slide’ for quite some time in many districts across the country, but we have expanded summer learning opportunities over the years in Gower to mitigate such an impact on student learning; and it has paid off. There is not a study, yet, that can be pointed to with great certainty to predict what will happen in the fall. There are however, some solid guesses and insights that can help us make sure that our efforts geared toward continuity in learning for the remainder of this year will be a benefit for our students and that our plan for re-entry is effective. Re-entry will include, among other district-wide efforts, diagnostic testing and screening to help align resources and instruction, as well as, remediation and acceleration plans based on our multi-tiered system of supports. Both of these approaches will be sure to play to our greatest strength – meeting the Whole Child where they are at and working relentlessly to provide an academic experience that has a proven and lengthy history of high academic attainment and growth. Yes, this is a long answer, but not an exhaustive one. It’s about ‘Children at their Best’ – We get that. It’s what drives us. And we are not going to let you down.
With the ‘New’ Gower Greeting,
Superintendent of Schools