Leslie Varble

Unity Point School
Carbondale, Illinois
Leslie Varble, Principal for Instruction

Return to School Testimonial

As Unity Point School District #140 began to plan for the return of students, it was quite evident that moving forward in the midst of a global pandemic would look different than in years past.  It was also clear that every family had their own story regarding the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.  The myriad of effects were far reaching and encompassed health and economic concerns, interrupted learning and most importantly the social and emotional well-being of our students.  It became our mission as the Unity Point School community to acknowledge the challenges that families were facing and create a supportive environment by creating relationships with each family that would be long lasting.   One might say the pandemic catapulted the practice of Student Success Planning to encompass ALL students within the school community with the sole goal of ensuring that all students/families felt supported and heard.

Due to the uniqueness of the beginning of the school year and an ongoing partnership with Harvard Educational Redesign Lab and the By All Means Initiative, the District prioritized the need to conduct family meetings to create Individualized Student Success Plans (ISSP) for ALL.  While remote learning began for our students, educators began meeting with families to develop plans for students to succeed and thrive during this chaotic time in education.  The teacher alongside the parent/student began to create a roadmap not just for academic success but also for social-emotional well-being for each student.

The practice of meeting individually with families is not unique to a school setting, however, the ISSP meetings are far different than those experienced in the past.  Teachers, support staff, and administration began to not only capture information about the students’ strengths and interests but also the students’ needs both physically and emotionally.  The information gathered was used to connect resources for families and provide wrap around services for student/family units that needed support beyond the scope of academic achievement.

As Unity Point School continues to navigate through this school year, one thing is for certain, the time spent meeting and collaborating with every family has made a significant impact on our school community.  School personnel have a strong understanding of student/family needs and a connection with each family that is invaluable.  This in and of itself has enabled our students/families to return to in-person learning with confidence utilizing the supports and services needed to have a successful school year.