COVID-19 Updates

We communicate to our parents via email regarding COVID-19 information and resources. Many of these all-school communications will also be posted here.

To help flatten the curve and stop the spread of COVID-19, our students began remote learning upon returning from spring break on March 23.

On April 17 the governor of Illinois announced that school buildings will remain closed for the remainder of the school year. We will continue with e-learning through our original last day of school May 28.

School Communications

May 17 - End of School Year

Hello Families –

I can’t believe it, but we have two weeks left of this strange and surreal academic year. Before I get too far into the content of this message, I want to welcome our new families who are receiving their first ‘From the Desk.’ So, new families WELCOME! I use ‘From the Desk’ messages as a format to communicate important information or exciting news about Countryside. They are not sent on a set schedule, but often enough for families to maintain a dialog with me or have questions answered.

Faculty Update
Let’s kick this one off with some great news! I am excited to welcome Mr. Shane Rodems to Countryside School. Mr. Rodems will be taking over Visual Arts from Miss Katrina. Mr. Rodems is finishing up his Master’s of Education in Art this spring at the University of Illinois. He and his wife are two longtime Champaign residents and for those of you with students at Uni – yes, Mrs. Rodems is his wife! Shane has been teaching at Champaign Central and Prairie View Ogden this year and was able to teach a couple of Zoom classes to some Countryside students. Although Miss Katrina will be greatly missed, we are excited to welcome Mr. Rodems to Countryside.

Calendar Updates
The last day of school is Thursday, May 28, 2020. Each classroom teacher is working on ways to do this allowing for the kids to have some fun and maybe with a little Countryside magic – stay tuned!

Progress Reports
Progress reports will be electronically sent in June. They will have the same format you are accustomed to seeing. Still, there will be modifications to accommodate the restrictions e-learning has put on the teacher’s ability to interact with their students. If you have any questions or concerns about your student, I encourage you to reach out to your classroom teacher or advisor over the summer.

Picking Up/Returning School Items
This email includes a link to the SignUp Genius to pick up/drop off belongings. Each parent and student will get an email informing them of Countryside supplies they were given for remote learning that need to be returned. These time slots are in 15-minute increments, please be on time or reschedule. Elementary students will pull up as if dropping off or picking up, and Mrs. Kirby, Mr. A, or I will unload Countryside supplies and load any student work that is currently in the building. If you don’t want any returned work or artwork, please comment in the notes, and it will be thrown away. Each middle school student and one parent will be allowed to park and enter the building wearing masks to clean out their locker and mailbox. Music instruments and books are costly, and any that aren’t returned will be charged to the family.

Front Steps Photos
THANKS to everyone who had their Front Steps photos taken for our fundraiser. What a fun way to remember this time and force your family to get dressed. Hilarity ensued at our house when we were given 45 minutes notice, and all five of us had to see how fast we could shower and make a sign.

Returning in the Fall

Now having made that disclaimer make no mistake: I want to return, the teachers want to return, and we know families want to return. I have received several messages with questions, thoughts, and concerns about what school will look like in the fall. I have been purposefully hesitant to comment in these messages to the community at large. The truth is, guidance is still evolving and we are working diligently to plan for many different scenarios.

Although we may not know precisely how August is going to look, we can assume that it will be with social distance guidelines in place when schools return. This means many practices and procedures will be different. For example, an alternate building layout has been prepared to ensure that we are meeting the necessary social distancing guidelines for our students and faculty in order to keep them as safe as possible. We will limit the amount of movement in the hallway, holding as many classes as possible in the student’s primary classroom. It is likely students will enter through their outer classroom doors at the beginning of each day. We are working through logistics like these every day to make sure that we are prepared.

In addition to making preparations for a physical return to Countryside, we are also preparing to refresh our e-learning. While we believe our current distance learning approach has been successful, we understand that to keep our children engaged and moving forward it will require adjustments and changes.

What can you do? Stay healthy and plan for your student to return to campus wearing a mask. While not ideal, this is likely to be necessary. Read all of your emails from Countryside this summer. We will do our best not to inundate you, but there will be important information as we are preparing to return.

What if I am not comfortable with my child returning in the fall, or there is a medical concern that requires them to remain home? Contact me as soon as you have made that determination. We can discuss options for distance learning to continue.

Will there be e-learning next year? A return to distance learning is not something that can be predicted but can be prepared for, and we are preparing for it.

This message is what I call a necessary evil in length and I hope you have all made it this far. I look forward to seeing many of you over the next few weeks as we shut down the building. Although this isn’t my last message for the spring, I want you to know that Countryside is open over the summer. I will be working between my wingback chair and my office at school ;).

All the best,
Krystal Young
Head of School

April 10 - FAQs

Hello Families –

Wow! We all made it to the end of week three of e-learning; Team Young celebrated with chocolate chip muffins this morning. 😊 This week, I had the opportunity to peek into several classes and see the kids. Their cheerful disposition (even at 8:10 a.m.) brightened my day. Take it from me if you are having a rough day, logging into Google Classroom to watch Mrs. Kirby act out Piggy and Elephant books is a game-changer. 💚

I hope all of you are staying healthy and finding the silver linings of the situation. For us the silver linings tend to be easier to see when Mother Nature is cooperating! I’ve gotten several questions over the last week that I thought I would answer for all this morning.

Do you know when we are going back to school? I’m sorry, I don’t. I also believe that announcing an arbitrary date will only give everyone a false sense of hope. Right now, the state has mandated closing until the end of April. I am hopeful that schools will receive more guidance as we get further along in April.

Will we go back when Unit 4/Urbana/Mahomet does? Not necessarily. Public schools have a lot of other factors to consider when they decide whether or not to return to their schools. Countryside will make the best decision for the health and welfare of our students and families. What I can promise you is the faculty and staff are prepared to continue e-learning for the rest of the academic year, and we are ready to re-enter the building if that is the correct course.

Is the playground open for use? No, it is not. I am not policing it, and I’m vertically challenged, so I won’t be climbing up to zip tie the hoops (as I wonder if even on a ladder I can reach 😉). However, I have posted a sign for non-members of our Countryside community and expect everyone to use good judgment or follow the guidelines our local authorities have put in place.

If I ordered a hot lunch and forgot, what happens? Ms. Binky to the rescue. She handled all of the order cancellations for refunds. She also misses everyone tragically and sends her hello’s and hugs!

Will we follow the calendar as is? The calendar is something I will finalize in more detail in a future email. I have had many parents reach out and indicate the 4-day school week works really well for their family to feel balanced during e-learning. I hope to send out an updated calendar for April next week and will hold off making any decisions about May until we know whether or not we will be physically returning to Countryside.

Is Countryside still taking new students? We are! We have only a few spots remaining for next year and are still accepting applications. We have worked out an admissions process electronically that has been serving us well over the last few weeks.

I want to close by wishing all of you a wonderfully relaxing weekend. I will be putting my YouTube education skills to the test by cutting Jeff’s hair. So, if the next message says ‘From the Desk’ you know that I’m back at school in hiding!

The faculty and staff made this video with messages to our students and families. I hope you enjoy it! As always, I’m available for questions and concerns, and to those who send pictures and stories of successes or challenges, thank you.

All the best,
Krystal Young
Head of School

March 24 - Shelter and Stay Order

Hello Families –

Wow! We have made it through our second day of e-learning, CONGRATULATIONS! I know that this has been quite an adjustment from our ‘regular’ school days. I have made it a point to find the humor in the stress, and we spend a lot of time laughing about our Zoom experiences at the dinner table.

This is just a quick email with a few housekeeping issues as we move forward.

  • Please read all of the emails – I know they are lengthy, but also necessary to stay informed with the e-learning process.
  • Please follow up with your students to ensure they are reading their emails – we want them to feel as connected to Countryside, their teachers, and their classmates as they can right now.
  • After my email last week, Illinois was placed on a shelter and stay order. For Countryside, that means the administrative team is not in the building daily until it is lifted. Many of you got a weekend porch delivery from me with items we knew your student didn’t have. If, as the week progresses, you realize someone doesn’t have a book or resource, contact me, and we will figure it out.

In closing, I want to say thank you all for being willing to work with us to make e-learning work for Countryside so that we can continue to move forward, educating our students. I miss them all. You may hear that Ms. Richardson or I were seen in a Zoom, don’t be alarmed; it is all in an effort to support both the students and faculty. We should all be proud of the kids they have been engaged, present, and helpful to their classmates and teachers. I have had the opportunity to ‘peek’ into several classes during the last couple of days and am continually amazed at their ability to adapt immediately.

On that note, I want to take a moment and thank the faculty and staff. They have been working tirelessly for the last few weeks to get us ready for e-learning in addition to their regular teaching. I will forever be grateful to this group for making Countryside the magical experience it is for every child.

I have gotten some fantastic pictures from spring break of kids as well as the first moments of e-learning! Keep sending them in – they will find a place in our yearbook!

All the best,
Krystal Young
Head of School

March 20 - Tips for E-Learning

Hello Families –

My hope for this message is that it finds you healthy at home. I think it is safe to say whether you were planning on staying in CU or traveling, this was NOT the Spring Break you imagined.

Brace yourselves this is a long, but necessary email.

I'm confident that all of you are staying up-to-date on the pandemic and the local implications that we are facing. I want to start by addressing the Act of God days that Governor Pritzker enacted last Friday.

Honestly, the Act of God days are a measure put in place to allow schools to have the time to try and move to an e-learning platform. This will not affect Countryside at all as we began preparations weeks before the closure. I/we have a go-ahead from our Regional Superintendent of Education to begin on March 23 because we are ready, our students have access, and the ROE's office has approved our plan. The only thing we can't do is grade work during that week. Nothing during that week can affect academic standing, because we are a K-8 school this has very little consequence for us: no valedictorian or class ranking.

This is the perfect opportunity for Countryside to have a week ahead of the curve where we are dialing in on what needs to happen in the coming weeks, and others are trying to figure out where to start. I would love nothing more than to give you a date that our faculty and students can return to campus, but we all know I can't. What I can promise you is that we'll stay informed and make sure that we make the decision that is best for our students and families.

As we are about to embark on the adventure of e-learning, I wanted to send you some tips that I've learned the last week when on Zoom conferences and webinars with people from Independent School Management and our Regional Superintendent of Education.

Set up a dedicated learning space for your students. In a time where students are doing everything from home, it is essential to have a dedicated space for them to associate with the business of schoolwork. Like many Countryside families, we have multiple students in our house. We have spaced them out with their devices, papers, pens, pencils, and binders in the best that we are able, and I'm fully prepared to listen to the 'feedback' from them regarding why their space isn't as good as their sisters'. I mean a global pandemic does not change tweenage sibling hostilities ;).

Have patience. Please have patience with this process. It will be a challenge at times. It will be frustrating at first as we all work out our schedules and the kinks of operating Countryside remotely. We have been working throughout the break to put measures in place to make this as user-friendly as possible, but there is no way to prepare for every scenario. I am here for you. Your child's classroom teachers, advisors, and specialty teachers are here for you.

Contribute to the community. We are all in this together. Every family at Countryside has chosen Countryside because it provides the unique educational experience we all wanted for our kids. This will not change with e-learning. As a faculty and staff, we are ready, but we won't be able to do it alone. We are going to need to hear from parents and caregivers about what is working and what may need improvements. Not every technique will work for every class nor every child. We are committed to using all of the 'tools' in our 'tool kit' to make sure that each child is thriving during this time.

Logistically speaking, we are going to attempt to mirror our 'normal' school day as much as we can. You will hear from classroom teachers individually to discuss particulars for each class.

I would LOVE to see what our students did over spring break and as we move through this phase. I will be working on our yearbook over the next several weeks, and while there will be more specific yearbook details to come, please feel free to send me pictures of your kids during the quarantine. In fact, all of the kids have my email address, and they are welcome to email me themselves! As always, if you have questions or concerns, please let me know. You all have my cell phone number.

All the best,
Krystal Young
Head of School

March 12 - Move to E-Learning

Hello Countryside Families –

Although I was hoping that I wasn't going to need to send this email, I am sending it as a proactive measure rather than a reactive one. After consultation with our national and local independent school associations, the Public Health District, our local Regional Office of Education, and the University of Illinois, Countryside will move forward with online education beginning Monday, March 23, 2020. Proactive measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 are being taken at all levels around the United States.

Between now and March 22, you will hear from your child's classroom teacher about how they will run their Google Classroom. Classroom teachers will be sending students home with things they may need during this period today and tomorrow. If you have already left for Spring Break, do not worry, you can email me, and we can coordinate a time to get you your child's necessities. Faculty and administration will have access to the building, respecting social distance boundaries that have been recommended by the Public Health District.

Everyone at Countryside is committed to making this work as smoothly as possible, but as with all new things, there will inevitably be a problem or two. As we navigate this time in our school, I ask you to have patience and know that we are all doing our part to make sure our families and our communities stay as healthy as possible, and beyond that, we can work through anything.

I will be at school for a few hours each day, please don't hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns. The goal is to get us back in the classrooms as soon as possible, and we will use the same resources to make that decision as we did to make this one.

All the best,
Krystal Young
Head of School

March 9 - Emergency Preparedness Plan

Hello Families –

Happy ‘Week Before Spring Break,’ you know the one week that starts painfully slow, and the next thing you know you’re shoving what you hope are all of the things your family will need into a suitcase as you’re headed for the door wondering if your destination will have a Target ;). Except if you talk to my girls, that won’t be us this year. We have succumbed to the idea that traveling to the Caribbean wasn’t worth the risk of getting stuck outside of the United States in the COVID-19 panic. This is the part where you feel very sad for them. What they don’t know is I have a lot of fun planned for them like cleaning out dressers and closets (shhh…we’ll let them be surprised!).

Now the serious stuff. COVID-19. We are all staying as informed as we possibly can.

On Thursday morning, I have been invited, along with all local principals, to the Regional Office of Education to meet with a representative from the Public Health District. If I learn any new information, you will hear from me again this week. Remember that upon returning from spring break, we will be asking all families to fill out a brief travel/health questionnaire.

All of the faculty have been working on an emergency preparedness plan. In the unlikely event that Countryside will need to close due to a COVID-19 related outbreak in CU, we are prepared for two weeks of immediate online education. What do you need to do now? Nothing. If we need to close, you will hear from me on March 21 or 22. We will be using Google Classroom to facilitate all learning, and your child will not leave here on Friday with anything they wouldn’t need. Faculty and staff will have access to the building and resources during the closure to make sure that we meet the needs of our students if this were to happen.

In closing, I want to say thank you. All of our parents are being so cautious when students aren’t feeling well, and it isn’t going unnoticed. Our goal is to weather the storm of all illnesses this time of year, in addition to being prepared for any critical situations. For those of you traveling, please have a wonderful trip, and I look forward to seeing you in the car line on March 23.

All the best,
Krystal Young
Head of School

February 28 - Novel Coronavirus

Hello Families –

Flu season is upon us.

I know many of you are well aware of this as your child has had to miss some school. As always, the administrative team at Countryside is staying informed of potential risks in our area. I wanted to take a moment and let everyone know Countryside is taking measures to monitor for signs and symptoms of illness, including influenza and Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

While the Center for Disease Control (CDC) considers COVID-19 as a very serious public health threat based on current information, the immediate health risk to the general public in the US is still regarded as low at this time. Nonetheless, our school will be teaching and implementing increased handwashing and the use of alcohol gel.

I’m asking for your help in keeping our students healthy during this flu season. If your child wakes up not feeling well, please err on the side of caution and keep your child home. If teachers notice that students are looking unwell, their temperature will be taken, and anyone with increased temperature will be sent home for 24 hours.

All students must remain fever free (as per our policy) for 24 hours before returning to class. As many of us are headed out of town for spring break and assuming the risk in our area remains at its current state, we will have a brief questionnaire emailed to you at the end of Spring Break.

Although at this time, we have no reason to worry about school closing or an outbreak in CU rest assured that the faculty and staff are working on a plan in the unlikely event that was to happen. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to us.

All the best,
Krystal Young
Head of School

What do our parents say about our e-learning?

"Teachers and staff are doing an amazing job supporting students (and parents). Thank you so much for all that you do during normal and these extraordinary times!"

Countryside School
4301 W. Kirby Ave. Champaign, IL 61822
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