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District 171 shares school year highlights and future eLearning plan

LANSING, Ill. (June 28, 2023) – The June school board meeting of Sunnybrook District 171 featured an update of the eLearning plan and highlights from the school year.  

eLearning plan

As presented during the meeting, eLearning will be utilized by the district in the event of inclement weather and other emergency closings. The goal of the program is to maintain the momentum of learning and not make-up for missed days of school.

The learning will match the curriculum presented in school and be held to the same standards and learning targets. The learning would take place through Google Classroom, with checks to ensure students are engaged.

If a student does not have internet access, both Heritage and Nathan Hale will be open for one additional hour at the end of the day for three days following an eLearning day. This allows students time to download content and submit assignments within the required three day timeframe.

Staff are still expected to be responsible, and teachers will be logged in by 8:30 a.m., provide assignments by 9 a.m., and have office hours during regular school hours.

The eLearning plan can be viewed in full on the district website.

District end of the year review

Superintendent Dr. Erika Millhouse-Pettis and district officials gave a shared presentation on highlights from the year. 

One of the highlights presented was the language access presented to families within the district. 

“We are a multilingual community,” said Millhouse-Pettis. 

During the year, the district held its first in-person Hispanic fair with over 200 people in attendance. The Bilingual Parent Advisory Committee was formed and hosted three meetings. District communications are available in the three predominantly represented languages of English, Spanish, and Arabic. 

“We’re doing a wonderful job of creating a district of respecting, honoring, and valuing culture that our families are representing,” said Dr. Lori Owens-Stranc, Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. 

School highlights

At Heritage Middle School, one of the major highlights for the year was the introduction of ‘Heritage Houses’, a way to build community within the school in their first full year back after the pandemic. 

Similar to houses represented in the Harry Potter novels, students could be a part of one of four houses, each with a different color and name: the Green House of Wisdom, the Yellow House of Bravery, the Purple House of Creativity, and the Orange House of Friendship. 

At Nathan Hale School, student clubs were one of the major focuses during the year. 

While teachers continued to nurture and strengthen relationships throughout the school year, students began the year by being exposed to fun activities, icebreakers, community circles, and other activities that build confidence and trust through sharing. 

In partnership with ECHO, a special education cooperative that provides services to students with disabilities in south Cook County, first and second graders learned sign language.

“The goal there is by the time we get ready to hand them off to HMS, they know sign language and it becomes a piece of our culture where our kids are actually talking with the ECHO students,” said Joseph Kent, principal of Nathan Hale. 

The art club was one of the most popular clubs with 71 students who signed up. Other clubs included flag football, Math Bowl, the sewing club, and student council. 

Students at both schools completed an end of the year survey, where it was shown that third, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders all enjoy math and want to learn more about science. For seventh and eighth graders, social studies is the preferred subject, with seventh graders curious about health studies and eighth graders eager to learn about business. 

Other highlights

The district hosted five pre-kindergarten (pre-k) screenings during the year. According to Millhouse-Pettis, pre-k was part of the district ten years ago and Sunnybrook is in the planning process of developing and bringing an at-risk pre-k program to the district. The program will have certain requirements for students to be admitted and will be a half-day program located at Nathan Hale. 

Some of the goals for the 2023-24 school year include social/emotional learning initiatives, increasing attendance, and investigating a new math curriculum. The full version of the Board meeting can be found on District 171’s YouTube page.

The next meeting is scheduled for July 17. Meetings are held at 6:30 p.m. at Heritage Middle School, 19266 Burnham Avenue. 


Quinton R. Arthur
Quinton R. Arthur
Quinton received his Bachelor of Arts in English from Northern Illinois University and his Master of Science in Journalism from Roosevelt University. In addition to reporting for The Lansing Journal and the Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle, he volunteers with 100 Black Men of Chicago, Metropolitan Board of the Chicago Urban League, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Burst Into Books, and various other organizations. A south suburban resident since 2004, Quinton is passionate about telling the unsung stories of the community.