Superintendent's Blog

  • In reopening schools, state must address educational recovery plans

    Posted by Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat on 7/15/2020 2:00:00 PM
     
     

    Superintendents Tony Sanders, Arthur R. Culver, Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat and John Price wrote an editorial in the Daily Herald.

    From the editorial:

     

    For months, we have witnessed in awe the resilience displayed by our students, families and school staff as they navigate the COVID-19 crisis that has shuttered our campuses. Although many school buildings remain closed through the summer, educators and parents around the state are working diligently to ensure that learning continues.

     

    However, we know this past semester had and will have an impact on our students. Many children were without access to the tools they needed to learn effectively during remote learning. This was particularly acute where parents in "essential" jobs continued to leave the home, even as child care disappeared. For others, being absent from the classroom and their caring teachers, peers, support staff and administrators compounds the trauma they experienced more generally due to the coronavirus. And, while some schools are hosting limited in-person summer school, we know that's not sufficient.

     

    We look forward to the fall, when we can begin to reopen our schools, resume in-person learning and restore the achievement gains that are being lost to the pandemic. With that said, like everyone else, we know this virus has a life of its own, and we continue to prepare for every eventuality and recognize this school year may not go as planned, yet again.

     

    Although our districts have different demographics and needs, two things are certain. First, this crisis is affecting every student in the state. Second, making sure all students get what they need in Illinois will require "all hands on deck" and a multi-year statewide learning recovery plan that provides flexibility for schools and districts and that is comprehensive, well-resourced and rooted in equity.

     

    Absent serious effort, this period of emotional and academic turmoil will follow Illinois' children into adulthood.

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  • July 2 Update from the Superintendent

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat on 7/2/2020

    Peoria Public Schools families,

    I would like to share a few updates with you. From the beginning of this Return to School process, we have said that as ISBE guidance continues to change, Peoria Public Schools will also adjust its Return to School plan for the fall.

    Right now, our focus is to continue finding more options to increase in-person instruction, and we are working together with all stakeholders to achieve that goal.
    We do believe that in-person instruction is the most ideal for our students, and we are committed to providing those options while also balancing the health and safety of students and staff.

    As a result of the June 29th ISBE guidance, the Blended Learning model adopted by our Board will now feature alternating Friday in-person instruction. Under the A/B model, Week 1 Friday will be A students; Week 2 Friday will be B students. The rotation will continue in the following weeks. Students who are not in person on a Friday will still be participating in off-campus independent learning as assigned by the teacher.

    I also want to remind our families that we are offering a Virtual Only option. To find details about this option, please visit the district website under the Fall 2020 Reopening tab.

    Lastly, please be on the lookout for a Childcare survey that will be sent to you today. We strongly urge that families fill out this survey in order for us to determine the childcare needs for each building and how we can assist.

    As you remember, we were proactive in putting a tentative plan in place with board approval early in the summer, which included over 131 participants and over 70 meetings.

    I suspect that the guidance from ISBE may continue to evolve throughout the summer, and Peoria Public Schools will be dynamic in updating our Return to School plan primarily with a focus on increasing in-person instruction. All updates will be posted to our district website under the Fall 2020 Reopening tab or by visiting psd150.org/reopening



    Have a safe and relaxing Fourth of July weekend,

    Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat

    Superintendent

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  • June 29 Update from the Superintendent

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat on 6/29/2020

    Peoria Public Schools families,  

     

    Following the special Board of Education meeting on June 22, I want to formally announce Peoria Public Schools is adopting a Blended Learning model for the upcoming fall semester.

    The plan is based on ensuring the health and safety of our students and employees while also addressing the need for in-person instruction.

    The plan is aligned with the current guidance from the federal, state and local health officials.


    Here is an overview of what you need to know right now:

    • The intent of the blended model is to allow students in person instruction while maintaining safety guidelines for physical distancing through a reduced number of students in each building.
    • Students will follow an A/B style schedule Monday through Thursday. Students on the A schedule will attend school in person on Mondays and Wednesdays.
    • Students on the B schedule will attend in person on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
    • Friday will be virtual only *(with exception of potential on-campus flexible scheduling for high school) 
    • Families will be assigned the same schedule for student continuity across schools.
    • For those families that do not want their child attending in-person, families will have the option of choosing a 9-week full virtual learning schedule. That option will be available to sign up for starting with online registration opening on July 8th.
    • Students who choose the virtual option will be using an online learning platform. This online K-12 program allows students the option of working in all content areas​ virtually and independently. Students listen to a pre-recorded lesson from a certified teacher and then complete independent activities to practice their new knowledge.
    • We understand that childcare is a top concern for our families. The Return to School Childcare committee continues to work with existing community partners while building new partnerships to provide our families with options for affordable childcare.

    We will start the school year safely and cautiously with our approved plan, and my team and I will continue to explore additional ways to increase in-person instruction for the benefit of our district students.

    Thank you for your patience and understanding in what has been a rapidly evolving several months.

    Peoria Public Schools is committed to keeping your student safe while continuing to provide excellent educational opportunities. Remember the plan is flexible and will continue to evolve.

     

     

    Thank you and be safe,

     

    Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat

    Superintendent

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  • Statement from the Superintendent

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat on 6/1/2020 4:00:00 PM

    Dear Peoria Public Schools students, families and staff,

    While I have not historically weighed in on national matters, I am finding it hard to remain silent as I see our community hurting as protests and riots broke out locally and across the country in response to the horrific death of George Floyd.

    What I keep thinking about is the over 13,000 students in Peoria Public Schools, and the pain our African American students, especially, and others are feeling right now, and how this is a pivotal moment for our country. We know that a recent study by Harvard Public Health Professor Dr. David Williams shows that police shootings of unarmed African Americans cause severe psychological and physical trauma within the African American community, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer. We also must acknowledge the missed opportunities and inequities of the past, both socioeconomically and in education.

    As the leader of Peoria Public Schools, a backbone and important foundation of our community, we have an opportunity to be a voice for change and a healing presence in our communities. Choosing silence and indifference may not be what our community needs right now. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

    Now is the time to do everything we can to make sure students and staff feel safe and are treated equally. We have our work cut out for us, but I know Peoria Public Schools is up for the challenge. We need to be leaders and encourage everyone to choose kindness, tolerance, understanding and empathy. It’s time to love each other and come together to treat everyone with respect and dignity.


    Yours Sincerely,

    Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat
    Superintendent

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  • May 20th Message from the Superintenent

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat on 5/20/2020 4:15:00 PM

    Peoria Public Schools families,

     

    While our No. 1 focus these past few weeks has been finishing this year as strongly as we can, we have our eyes and plans on returning to school in the fall.

     

    With this note, I’m sharing our thoughts and advance planning already underway by our Return to School Committee, which has met three times so far and has been split into six sub-committees.

     

    My intention is to help you start to plan for this fall and to continue our priority to communicate with you often.

     

    In anticipation of next year’s reopening, we are pouring over planning and guidance from the CDC, Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), and other state plans and professional association guidelines for returning to school.

     

    My plan is to provide a formal update to you all by June 30, 2020.

     

    This next item that I am going to share is very important. I would like to announce a survey that we created to gather the thoughts and ideas from our families.

     

    We will not proceed without careful consideration from you. Please click here to complete the Return to School survey.

     

    In the meantime, I’m sharing some highlights that I would like you to be aware of and to consider as we prepare for “back to school” in a few short months.

     

    Our Back to School planning is focused on keeping student learning at the forefront - a safe, healthy, and intentional focus on learning. We are conscious of the fact that there could be further interruptions experienced during next school year due to a resurgence of COVID-19. We are also aware of a subset of our community who may simply refuse to send their children to school for a variety of reasons.

     

    Generally, we are anticipating three prongs as we return to school:

    • In-Person schooling - with health safeguards. We are waiting for the Illinois Department of Public Health/Illinois State Board of Education return to schooling guidance
    • A Hybrid Approach - some in-person schooling and some remote learning
    • Remote Learning - taking what worked during Remote Learning, what we learned during that time, and input from you to refine and improve Remote Learning

     

    Some Questions we are working through in order to prepare for the school year 2020-2021:

    1. As information continues to evolve, is it reasonable for our schools to be safely open as normal? What are health and safety protocols that need to be instituted?

    2. What modifications should be made to safely open our schools, and is it possible for our schools to make those modifications? We don’t want to make false promises. We are eager to open but safety and health are #1 priorities and considerations.

    3. What can be different about our attendance policies to ensure that students and staff can act in the best interest of their health and the health of others? We are mindful of the wide breadth of this pandemic and its continued impact on members of our staff, students, families, and the greater community.

    4. How should we modify our “return to work/school” protocols?

    5. What do we do with students or staff that are not safe in returning to school?

    6. How do we determine if learning loss has occurred for some of our students?

    7. How will custodial protocols change to meet current best practice?

    8. If the State does not allow us to begin the school year in person, what does returning to school actually look like?

     

    Again, we know that the past few months have been challenging. Our students, staff, and families continue to be in our thoughts as we collectively experience this pandemic. I appreciate the support, care, and attention that our staff and you have provided our students during this difficult time. We are stronger when we work together.

     

    I will follow up with additional communications prior to June 30, 2020.

     

    With gratitude and thank you,

    Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat

    Superintendent

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  • A message from Superintendent Dr. Kherat, May 8, 20209

    Posted by Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat on 5/8/2020 8:00:00 PM

    Peoria Public Schools families,

     

    Even though we still have a few weeks left in the current school year, I know there is some anxiety around what schools will look like in August.

     

    I want to assure you that we are planning ahead to make sure we provide meaningful learning for your children while still preserving their health and safety. As a result, a Return to School committee has been formed, and the stakeholders on this committee are well-represented.

     

    Our goal is to have a plan, or a series of plans, in place by June 30th.

     

    Lastly, I want to say a special thank you to all of the mothers who are part of our Peoria Public Schools family. You deserve every bit of love and appreciation this weekend. Happy Mother's Day!

     

    Thank you,

    Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat

    Superintendent

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  • School Kudos

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat on 4/27/2020 7:00:00 PM

    I love what's going on in our buildings right now and want to highlight the hard work and ingenuity of Peoria Public Schools staff and leadership.

     

    Whittier - I wanted to give huge kudos to Whittier staff for the amazing job the teachers AND TAs are doing to support learning. There are phone calls, letters, postcards going out continuously along with the two live lessons daily. Relationships with families and students are strong and growing stronger every day.

     

    Whittier, Kellar, Northmoor, Lindbergh, Von Steuben, and Valeska Hinton all had engagement numbers consistently at or above 80 percent.

     

    Valeska’s staff also made a video giving virtual hugs to their students for the school’s first week of Remote Learning following intercession.

     

    Maude Sanders – Teachers and Principal Hiles have found many ways to interact with families through video recordings, including the most recent one from the school’s kindergarten teachers giving instructions on the need for kindergartners to learn how to tie a shoe and zip up a coat.

     

    Trewyn, Manual and Harrison staff collectively did a SEL neighborhood driving parade through South Peoria neighborhoods last week. The parade was well-attended and was a big morale boost to students.

     

    Manual, Peoria High and Richwoods all delivered yard signs to the senior Class of 2020 to celebrate their four years in high school.

     

    Charter Oak hosted a Spirit Week last week with the students dressing up for different theme days while checking in with their teachers with over 80% student engagement.

     

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  • Superintendent's Message, April 24, 2020

    Posted by Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat on 4/27/2020 7:00:00 AM

    Peoria Public Schools families,

    We have completed another exceptional week of Remote Learning. I want to thank all of you for being with us every step of the way as learning continues and we finish the school year strong.



    Here are four quick things I would like to share with you:

    1.) Our UnityPoint Health clinic located inside Manual re-opened this week. Not only does the clinic provide routine health services, it will also perform school physicals and shots for next year.

    The clinic is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and appointments can be made by calling 309-495-8509.

    2.) We have quite a bit of Remote Learning resources available to you and your student on our websites, including the newly unveiled Read Peoria Storytime videos. Please visit psd150.org/remotelearning or click the Remote Learning tab on any of your school websites.

    3.) High school graduations will take place virtually on Saturday, May 16th at noon for Peoria High; 2 p.m. for Manual and 4 p.m. for Richwoods. Please look for more information from your child’s principal.

    4.) May 4-8 is Teacher Appreciation Week, and Peoria Public Schools teachers deserve the appreciation. Please consider sending a positive note of some kind to your student's teachers that week. Don't underestimate the power of positivity!


    Thank you,

    Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat

    Superintendent 

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  • Manual Academy UnityPoint Clinic reopens Monday, April 20

    Posted by Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat on 4/16/2020 5:00:00 PM

    Peoria Public Schools families,

     

    I am thrilled to announce that the UnityPoint Health Clinic at Manual High School is re-opening its doors on Monday, April 20th. The clinic will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Monday through Thursday.

     

    A family practitioner and a pediatric practitioner will be on site. Appointments can be made by calling 309-495-8509.

     

    Staff will assess and properly screen the patient over the phone before coming into the clinic. This is a measure to keep everyone safe.

     

    The clinic will be able to provide services for toddlers to adults as long as they have consent.

     

    I am grateful to UnityPoint that we are re-opening the clinic so that there is not a gap in medical care for our students.

     

    Thank you,

    Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat
    Superintendent

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  • A message to the Class of 2020

    Posted by Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat on 4/7/2020 7:00:00 PM

    To the Class of 2020,

    I have been thinking of you during the last month. I know that this has been a very confusing time for our seniors, as we approach the final weeks of your time in high school.

    On the one hand, I know that you are excited about graduating and moving on to the next phase of your promising young lives. On the other hand, I am sure you are disappointed that the rituals and events of those final weeks aren't unfolding the way you envisioned, not to mention the precious time and memories with friends during a normal school week.

    I want you to know that it's okay to be sad, but to also look out for your own health and well-being. Turn to those around you for support - your parents, family members and friends. All of us at Peoria Public Schools are here for you as well. If you have social-emotional needs, reach out to a teacher, your principal or your counselor for support.

    I also want to express how impressed I am at your ability to change and adapt. We are making history at Peoria Public Schools by completely transitioning to Remote Learning, and you are a huge part of that success.

    One positive that will result from this period of virtual learning is that you'll be very prepared for college or a career starting this fall. Continue to check your school emails for TEAMS meetings with your teachers so that you have a strong finish to your final semester.

    Lastly, I know you're concerned about graduation. We don't know how the ceremony will look right now, but we will find a way to celebrate your hard work, dedication and accomplishments from the past four years.

    I am proud to be your Superintendent.

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