The Latest from our Superintendent
Friday, January 15th, 2021
Dear KIPP Chicago Families,
As promised in December, I’m writing with a mid-January update. I will be direct about this. While we believe whole-heartedly in a return to on-site learning as soon as possible, we will be extending our student on-site date to Monday, April 19th, the first day of Quarter 4. I am hopeful we will welcome back students who opt to be on-site at that time. With community positivity rates hovering in the double digits, a variation of the Coronavirus that is 50% more transmissible gaining momentum, and vaccinations within reach for educators, we believe it is prudent to devote 100% of our energy toward offering the best remote education this city has to offer.
Throughout this pandemic, we have worked as a collective. Our principals have elevated the voices of staff members and you, our KIPP families, to inform region-wide decisions. This decision was no different, and it was not made easily. We know that our students need us in-person and that some of you are willing to return your students to on-site learning. At this point, however, we believe that a return in February would compromise our original guiding principles regarding safety and high-quality remote learning.
We are communicating this today with the assurance that we will continue to focus on showing up as the very best teachers and leaders we can be. You can expect to hear back from us in February with another opportunity to update your preference for on-site or remote learning. In the meantime, I would like to provide some details regarding our latest preparations:
- First, we have contracted with an agency that will provide an on-site Health Coordinator at each of KIPP Chicago’s 6 buildings once we resume on-site learning. The Health Coordinator is a trained nurse who will lead a comprehensive testing program for teachers, assist with contact tracing, provide vaccine education to our staff and families, and provide real-time health support through the end of the school year.
- Second, all of our buildings have received outside assessments of their ventilation systems and currently meet on-site learning guidelines.
- Third, we are continuing to iterate schedules that ensure our on-site model in April will not compromise the quality of remote learning our families have grown accustomed to.
- Lastly, we are waiting for guidance from the city regarding vaccinations. The most current information can be found here. You can trust we will send more information out as soon as it becomes available.
As we think about our decision to remain remote longer, we recognize our collective responsibility at this moment in history. When our schools open, we will find peace in knowing our relationships have grown even stronger as a result of the care we have shown for each other during this time.
In this spirit, I want to encourage you to participate in our newest parent and family wellness offerings. This month we are launching monthly workshops for families, including financial literacy workshops and cooking demos (with many other options). The first session will be held on January 28th at 5 pm via Zoom. Participants will cook a heart-healthy baked broccoli parmesan meal with our community partner, Native Tongue. The cooking demonstration will be presented in both English and Spanish. Native Tongue will offer one bag of groceries for the first 10 participants to sign up and participate. Please join us by signing up here: https://forms.gle/hvHm5eypqRG8xgXh8!
With love and gratitude,
Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020
Dear KIPP Chicago Staff,
In light of CPS’ recent announcement to return to on-site schooling for students in grades K-8 on Monday, February 1st, I will be communicating updates more frequently. Due to current health conditions in the city, in part due to holiday gatherings, we will be moving our tentative start date to February 22nd.
We believe that a sufficient runway is necessary to transition with intentionality and safety. Extending our tentative start date will allow us to gather up-to-date city health data upon return from the holiday break while also giving us sufficient time to launch on-site learning in alignment with our guiding principles. One thing is for sure: whenever it is safe enough to return to on-site schooling, we will be ready. Thus, we are moving forward with creating on-site schooling models that center health, safety, and learning regardless of start date. Doing so will offer you and our families clarity and assurance that we will be able to extend our high-level remote programming to an on-site setting that is predictable and safe for all of our stakeholders.
To prepare for a tentative February 22nd launch we are taking some immediate next steps:
Family Choice Survey: We are surveying our families and asking that they select either an on-site or remote option if schools were to open on-site in February. Please help us in ensuring 100% completion of this survey by December 16th.
School Staffing: Our human resources team, in collaboration with your school leadership, will be responding to all requests for on-site work exemptions or on-site work accommodations by December 16th. If you have not yet completed an Accommodations Request Form we have recorded that you are able to return to on-site work on February 22nd or whenever it is decided we will return to on-site school.
School Model: We are working closely with school leadership to identify on-site models that prioritize the following.
- Student Experience. The extent to which the model promotes a positive, predictable, and equitable daily experience for all KIPPsters.
- Family Experience. The extent to which the model supports childcare and scheduling preferences for parents.
- Teacher Experience. The extent to which the model promotes life balance and feasible workload.
- Instructional Quality. The extent to which the model enables schools to deliver quality instruction.
- Operational Feasibility. The extent to which the model enables leadership and operations to ensure all students are safe, in attendance, and receiving the support they need.
- Staffing Capacity. The extent to which the model can absorb inevitable COVID-related exemptions and absences.
Facility Readiness: This is something we have been working on since day one. We have confidence that once city health indicators are such that we believe it is safe to open our buildings, we will be ready to do so. Our buildings are equipped with proper ventilation systems and are on a monitoring plan to maintain high levels of functioning. We have partnered with the facilities teams to drive top of the line disinfecting practices. We have enough PPE to last through the end of the school year, we will be able to enlist nursing support, and we can ensure social distancing requirements are met.
Finally, I know that this is not easy. I am grateful each day for your resilience and our shared commitment to seeing this through with our health, wellness, and student learning at the center. To that end, it is important to be with others across our community. Please consider joining our Wellness Wednesday painting event at 5 pm on Wednesday, December 9th, and our event on Wednesday, December 16th. Order your painting kit for reimbursement here. Materials you will need for our cookie-making event, complete with a vegan option, can be found here. I would love to see you there. Finally, we are mailing holiday gifts to all staff next week! You may have received an email to confirm shipping from Josyln Villalpando, no next steps are required.
With love and appreciation,
Friday, October 10th, 2020
Dear KIPP Chicago Families,
While hard to believe, this letter finds us already over half way through the first quarter. I have had the opportunity to “zoom” into many of your children’s classrooms and in every instance I leave feeling so incredibly proud of and inspired by your children and their teachers and leaders. On average, 92% of KIPPsters are attending school everyday. Please continue to work with your child’s school to ensure your child can log in, be marked present, and learn on a daily basis.
As we partner with you in providing the best remote school we can offer, we will continue to put the safety and voices of our families above all else. We had nearly 1000 families complete our last survey. This helps us make decisions that include you even though we are not physically together in our schools. Thank you. We remain committed to communicating as proactively as we can so that you are able to plan ahead for your children’s care. As we near Quarter 2, I hope you find some clarity in knowing where we are headed.
We will continue to operate school remotely until at least January. We know that more of you are feeling comfortable considering on-site school. We also know that the majority of you would prefer to continue with remote learning. As previously shared, if health metrics and city authorities indicate that staff and students can safely be in buildings prior to January, we may decide to open our schools to students in a limited capacity. Should this become a possibility, you will hear from us with plenty of runway to make a decision that is right for your family.
Finally, I have provided just a few updates and reminders.
- November 3rd is now a day off for all KIPP Chicago staff and students. This day is off so that staff and families can vote and/or volunteer as part of local voting efforts. We hope this day off helps remove some barriers in this process.
- Because November 3rd is a day off, November 6th will now be a regular remote learning day for students. Students should plan to attend remote school on November 6th.
- Please also join us in celebrating Latinx Heritage Month by following us on Facebook and Instagram at @KIPPChicago. Here you can learn more about the cultures, contributions and resilience of Latinx, Hispanic and Latino-identified communities within KIPP Chicago, our city and around the world and participate in our first ever KIPP Chicago Loteria event which launches on Tuesday, October 6th. Check your email for more information on how to pick up your game board and play.
July 17th, 2020
I am writing today with an update about KIPP Chicago’s plan for the school year. As you may know, we decided weeks ago to prioritize the safety of our staff and students by deciding to start school remotely. I’m grateful for this early decision as it allowed our leaders and teachers to thoughtfully focus on preparing to be the best remote classroom teachers this city has to offer. KIPP Chicago will keep its promise of providing an excellent education to our students and communities regardless of our setting.
In light of Mayor Lightfoot’s recent announcement that CPS district led schools will be operating a remote teaching model through the end of the first quarter, I wanted to reach out to our families. We will continue to monitor this situation closely and will remain consistent in making decisions that center the health and safety of your children and their teachers. As a result, our new tentative on-site start date will be Tuesday, November 10th. This means our entire first quarter of learning will take place remotely. We do not take the impact this decision has on our families lightly. We know how hard it is to wear the hat of a parent and teacher while navigating the realities of this time.
If it becomes safe enough, we will pursue ways for our buildings to provide space for students to complete their remote learning.
As a parent myself, I know how much it means when caring leaders and teachers greet our children with a supportive online classroom and engaging learning opportunities. Below are a few highlights of KIPP’s remote schooling model this Fall:
- Access. KIPP will work with every single child to ensure that they can access our technology platforms for online school.
- As close to normal school experience, given the circumstance. KIPPsters will be in Live Zoom classes every single day with their teachers and classmates. KIPPsters will have many hours of grade level instruction to complete outside of Live Zoom classes. KIPPsters will have access to fun Zoom activities so they can connect with their classmates on Wednesdays.
- The Best Online Education Programs. KIPP has purchased licenses for the top online education platforms for every student.
- Communication. Every parent/student will receive a one-on-one conference before the year starts to ensure they have everything needed to be successful. Once the year starts on August 24th, KIPP staff will contact students/families at least twice a week, and families will receive progress reports each week that show student grades and online attendance.
- Small group attention. KIPPsters will also have access to Zoom small groups with less than 10 students. KIPPsters may also be in small group Zooms with their teachers if they are struggling to understand a concept.
- Follow us on Facebook and Instagram! Schools will recognize students with pictures, prizes, and celebrations on social media accounts.
In closing, I want every parent to know that our Principals began planning way back in May for the possibility of remote school this Fall. As I write this letter, teachers are receiving professional development with the aim of becoming the best remote instructors this city has to offer. In other words, you can count on KIPP right now. We can’t wait to see your children online for our first day of remote school on Monday, August 24th. Please be on the lookout for communication from your specific school in the next two weeks. Also, I ask that you check your email and complete our family survey if you have not already done so. Your voice matters to us.