Since the time I wrote my column last month for The Citizen, we’ve endured an unbelievable amount of change in just that short period of time. All of us — no matter what we do or who we are — have had to make drastic transitions in our lives to a new perspective of what it is like to live with an active worldwide pandemic.

Here in our schools, it’s been exactly 4 weeks since we’ve seen our students. We were last together on Thursday, March 12, 2020, the day before we were to go on our spring break. On that day, I visited each school and shared with them that, at that time, we were staying open and we’d welcome everyone back on Monday, March 23.

Literally the next day, Friday, March 13, 2020, Governor Pritzker announced that schools would be closed for Act of God days from March 23-30, 2020. On Friday, March 20, 2020, he suspended in-person learning until April 7, and that got extended, as we know, until April 30, 2020.

Of course, suspending “in person” learning completely alters the course of what public schools each and every day — turns us totally upside down! We love welcoming our students in person each and every day. We miss them when they’re absent and after some time away over our breaks, we’re ready to come back to what we do — serve our students and families.

Throughout the past four weeks, our school district has had three top priorities — all equal in importance — that have guided our decision making:

1) The health/well-being of our staff and families.

2) The health/well-being of our students and families, which includes food distribution and connecting/engaging with students and families.

3) Clear communication.

Those top three priorities guided the discussions that formulated our Remote Learning Plan. Our guiding principles for the Remote Learning Plan are as follows:

1) The health/well-being of our staff, students and families.

2) Minimize instructional loss during Remote Learning Days.

3) Clear communication.

Throughout all of this, I want to emphasize that the health and well-being of everyone is paramount. Without that being intact, we cannot expect to accomplish much else. And while teaching and learning is still important while our buildings are closed, we recognize it is a challenge for teachers, students and parents in many ways. Families sometimes have multiple children at home, teachers are often watching and helping their own children, and for our students, remote learning can present unique challenges. We invite you to continue to communicate with us about any issues, challenges or problems you are experiencing. We are open to suggestions —again, Remote Learning Days are new to everyone.

In closing, I am so incredibly proud of how our staff has responded to our professional world being so inextricably altered and how educators everywhere are rewriting the history of education through remote learning and connecting in different ways. It’s not ideal. And, to our students, parents and families — we can’t say thank you enough for your patience, flexibility and support. We know you have questions, and we don’t always have all of the answers. Everything is new to all of us, and it seems that each day we have to be prepared to embrace and respond to the changes that day will bring.