The DuPage County Health Department is recommending that schools stick to remote learning as coronavirus cases and positivity rates surge forward in the area, but some schools are moving ahead with plans to hold at least some in-person learning in their districts.
Students in Glenbard North’s District 87 returned to their classrooms on Monday, while in Downers Grove District 58, students will start a hybrid learning plan on Tuesday.
“I think they need school, but at the same time I want it to be done safely,” Downers Grove parent Theresa Arnold said.
The decision to move back to a hybrid or in-person model for learning comes on the heels of a DCHD announcement recommending schools implement remote learning for most students.
Community transmission of the coronavirus is becoming more widespread, with DuPage County potentially facing new mitigation restrictions as a result of an elevated positivity rate in the region. According to metrics available from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Region 8, comprised of Kane and DuPage counties, has exceeded the 8% positivity rate threshold to trigger new coronavirus mitigation restrictions, and if the number doesn’t come down in coming days, then indoor service at restaurants and bars will be stopped, among other rule changes.
“We’re looking to inform decisions by districts,” DuPage County Health Department official Chris Hoff, director of community health resources, said. “We want to really help them to understand community transmission and outbreaks that are occurring so they can make informed decisions.”
Not all schools are moving forward with in-person or hybrid learning. Naperville Unit District 203, which had planned to move into a new phase of its reopening plan this week, will instead continue online learning programs for most students in the district.
According to a letter to parents, only K-12 specialized programs will be allowed to continue with in-person learning, Supt. Dan Bridges said.
Early childhood and elementary students will remain on their normal schedules. Junior high students and high school students will stick with their “10% model” of in-person instruction for targeted students, according to the letter.
“I want to thank the community for your patience as this situation continues to evolve and as we adapt to changing circumstances,” Bridges said. “Please unit with me to slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, social distancing and engaging in healthy hygiene practices.”
In Elmhurst District 205, all students will be moved to remote learning beginning on Wednesday and running through at least Nov. 4, according to a press release.
“This decision is not an easy one in a community that so highly values education and in-person learning,” Dr. David Moyer, Superintendent of Schools, said. “The District 205 Leadership team, our teachers and staff have worked hard to keep our schools physically open and we look forward to our students’ return to the classroom as soon as possible.”
According to the DCHD, the weekly case count in DuPage County has risen to 119 cases per 100,000 residents in the county, a 34% increase over last week.
School districts moving to hybrid learning models say they will keep a close eye on health metrics, and will not hesitate to move back to remote learning if required to do so.
“If we see multiple consecutive weeks of the metrics not improving, we may need to move back to a fully remote learning environment,” Downers Grove Supt. Dr. Kevin Russell said.