School District 22 Superintendent Julia Bove hosted a very well-attended, virtual “Back-to-School Town Hall” meeting on Tuesday evening, September 19th, via Zoom, to address the most pressing concerns families have at the beginning of this school year.
The superintendent began the meeting by identifying her five primary goals for the District, the first of which was improving literacy through the new English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum. She explained that reading and writing are essential to success in every other subject and that the new K-5 “Into Reading” and Grade 6-8 “Into Literature” programs will give students a solid foundation on which to build on.
She also emphasized the importance of math proficiency and identified the subject as the primary gatekeeper for higher learning. The superintendent said that algebra, which is introduced in 8th or 9th grade, is one of the subjects students have the most trouble with. She explained that if students do not get the extra support they need to pass the class, many just give up on math altogether and that without it, they cannot graduate high school or attend college.
Bove said that she is dedicated to ensuring that the growing number of multilingual and students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) continue to have all of the support they need, reducing chronic absenteeism (18 or more unexplained absences throughout the school year) and retaining middle school students by celebrating all the District has to offer.
Borough Safety Director Craig Edwards was also in attendance for the meeting and shared an extremely informative presentation on the most current school safety protocols. Edwards explained that schools have four primary emergency responses: evacuation (formerly known as a fire drill, but also applied to bomb threats, gas leaks or carbon monoxide exposure), shelter-in place (putting the entire school in a virtual cocoon when an emergency is happening outside the school, such as shots fired), hold (when students are to remain in their classrooms while there is an emergency going on in the hallways or elsewhere) and soft/hard lockdowns. In a soft lockdown, there is no immediate danger. Doors are locked and the school’s Building Response Team conducts a sweep. During a hard lockdown, there is an immediate threat. Doors are locked and police officers conduct a sweep. Edwards explained that each school must submit their safety plan by week’s end and conduct eight drills by the end of December.
The safety director also explained that all newly constructed schools now come equipped with state-of-the-art video surveillance equipment, that older schools are currently being retrofitted and that all of the software across the board is being refreshed to provide the best quality available with the ability to zoom and conduct facial recognition. He discussed emergency supply bags, buzzer systems, door alarms, Walkie Talkies and ID cards. While ID cards in elementary and middle schools are not standard practice and Walkie Talkies are not provided for free, they are available for purchase at the discretion of a school’s SLT and Principal, who can make allocations within the safety budget for such measures.
While many questions were fielded throughout the meeting, anyone with additional concerns was encouraged to contact the District Office, and all were assured that each and every question would be answered by the superintendent’s team.