It would be easy to describe this fall at Lockport Township High School as another year in the Covid-19 pandemic. While that certainly is the case -- that this pandemic has draped itself across three successive school years -- it is also the case that school has resumed as close to normal as possible. If you visited our campuses, you might not know the difference between today and the Fall of 2019.
Yes, students are wearing masks, there is physical distancing, and public health procedures are in place. Still, almost 1,200 classes are meeting daily, busses are rolling, athletics are in full swing, and activities are creating opportunities for students. We have pivoted as well to a focus on our students’ emotional and social well-being with improvements to our website with a Support and Wellness page, our new LTHS Protect Our Porters page, and our partnership with KidsMatter to provide parent education. Early in the school year, we surveyed our students, and they reported that they feel a strong sense of support from our staff members and their families at home. However, they also reported low self-efficacy, meaning that they are not as confident in their ability to meet and overcome challenges.
This fall our Compass program has been one response to what our students need. Four times per week, students have a pause in their academic day to seek teacher assistance, meet with a school counselor or social worker, collaborate with peers, work independently, or learn about important school initiatives. We have also concentrated the time that our staff members have to meet, collaborate, and address the needs they see in our students on a weekly basis with a late start every Wednesday. We hope that our use of time and connecting people works to support the academic success and emotional well-being of our students.
Academically, we were able to report to our Board of Education this fall that students during the 2020-2021 school year thrived despite the challenging conditions that they and their teachers faced. Student performance on the SAT and Advanced Placement tests did not decline in comparison to the four previous years. Student grade performance remained strong with a low course failure rate and high 99% graduation rate. Porter Athletics and Activities thrived as well with playoff and state-level success in Boys’ Soccer, Football, Girls’ Volleyball, Boys’ and Girls’ Cross Country, and Boys’ and Girls’ Golf. The Porter Marching Band continued to place among the top bands in Illinois in their competitions and the Porter Players produced another fall Shower Cap Kids and Fall Play.
All of the signs point to recovery and restoration. We need to keep doing the good work to keep school open while the pandemic continues. All of the mitigations and planning we have in place go to one goal: maintaining in-person learning for our students. With community support and vaccination, we can do that. If the pandemic has shown us anything, it has shown us how much school means to the academic, social, and emotional well-being of our youth. And our mission remains simple: To keep students safe and help them learn.
Dr. Robert McBride, Jr.