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Superintendents to governor: Allow student extracurricular activities

Following is a letter signed by many superintendents of schools in Madison County to Gov. JB Pritzker. It was sent on Nov. 5.

Dear Governor Pritzker,

First, we want to thank you for the work you are doing as Governor to mitigate the risks of
COVID-19 while keeping our communities, families, and most importantly our students in a
safer environment. The purpose of this letter is to share our experience and perspectives as
educators and leaders tasked with the safety and wellbeing of our students, staff, families and
communities. The educational experiences of our students are most successful and valuable
while interacting in-person with teachers and coaches while participating in extracurricular and
co-curricular activities in our schools. Well rounded and balanced experiences
help our children mature into young men and women. The pandemic has and
continues to impact the social interactions of our students among their peers, adults, and various
situations that help prepare them for what life will bring. Some of the negative effects that we are
seeing as a result of these experiences being limited are depression, anxiety, lack of motivation,
and loss of self. Despite the resilience of children, negative consequences are appearing and we
fear this is the tip of the iceberg as these issues continue to rise.

The interactions and opportunities provided before, during, and after school hours throughout a
variety of settings shape the lives of our students. Educators have worked relentlessly to reinvent
how we educate our students and provide social interactions over the past six months. However,
extracurricular experiences that include high stress situations, teamwork, dedication and focus
towards a common goal cannot be replicated unless students are given the opportunity to play
and participate. We urge you to consider three factors before delaying or canceling any future
extra-curricular seasons at the high school or junior high/middle school level.

1. School districts have shown that when given the opportunity, we rise to the challenge and
find the delicate balance between health and safety of our school communities while
providing for continuity of learning. Districts this summer created a plan, adhered to
State safety measures, implemented cleaning protocols and made decisions in the best
interest of our students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

2. School districts are creative. We continue to find ways to connect with students, teach
them, and provide opportunities for participation, and to hold special events. Schools
have students learning in remote, blended and in-person environments. We have made
special events such as graduations, parking lot proms, drive through celebrations, senior
recognitions and much more happen safely. Parents have become our partners in even
deeper and more meaningful ways.

3. In most instances, positive cases found in schools come from outside of the school. We
take the safety of our students seriously. When it comes to athletics, schools will provide
a safer environment with procedures and accountability with more fidelity than a travel or
club program every single time. Without the opportunities in our schools, students will
play for unregulated clubs and travel teams while traveling out of state to do so.

We as superintendents are calling on you to allow our students to participate in extracurricular
activities and interscholastic competition. While each scenario is different, schools have shown
that we are adaptable, vigilant, and accountable while keeping the health, safety, and well-being
of our students as the highest priority. It is time to allow superintendents, athletic directors and
coaches the opportunity to partner with IDPH to provide interscholastic competition in a safe
environment. Our students are our top priority and nobody will take better care of them than our
schools and the educators who have dedicated their lives to them. Our students will benefit
immensely from the unrepeatable experiences. The physical, mental and academic well-being of
our students are depending on us. Our students are depending on you.
Below you will find the signatures of school district superintendents throughout the state in
support of this request and the number of students each school district serves. Collectively, we
represent over 200,000 students in grades K-12 throughout the state of Illinois.

Local superintendents signing letter included Kristie Baumgartner from Alton CUSD 11; Jill Griffin, Ed.D. from Bethalto CUSD 8; Mark B. Skertich, Ed.D. from Collinsville; John Pearson, Ed.D. from East Alton-Wood River CHSD 14; Emily Warnecke From East Alton SD 13; Jason Henderson, Ed.D. from Edwardsville CUSD 7; Mike Sutton from Highland CUSD 5; Andrew Reinking, Ed.D. from Madison CUSD 12; Darcy Benway, Ed.D. from O’Fallon Township High School District 203, Debra Kreutztrager Roxana CUSD 1, and Leigh Lewis from Triad Community Unit School District 2.

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