Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47 and Algonquin-based Community School District 300 will temporarily return to a remote learning model starting Monday, about a week after the districts said they were going to stick with hybrid learning.
District 47, which has had some form of in-person learning as part of its hybrid learning model which began Oct. 5, has continued to monitor COVID-19 health metrics for McHenry County and the region, as well as those in specific ZIP codes for families living within District 47 boundaries, the district said in a Facebook post.
“Unfortunately, the numbers for the county continue to remain above the threshold for hybrid learning,” the district said in a post.
District 300 had switched to hybrid learning for its kindergarten through third grade students Oct. 19. Fourth and fifth graders from District 300 were set to follow Monday. Now, all students will spend the next three weeks remote.
The district, which serves about 20,000 students, will try to return kindergartners through third graders to some form of in-person instruction again after the Thanksgiving holiday. District 47 said it is hoping to be able to resume its hybrid model in its second trimester. Its first trimester ends Nov. 13.
During remote learning, District 47 students will remain with their current teachers and schedules, spokeswoman Denise Barr said in an email. The district will continue putting out weekly parent communications during this time, she said.
In the six days District 300 kindergartners through third graders were in person, Superintendent Fred Heid said on the district’s website, four classrooms were closed and converted to remote learning because of COVID-19 exposures. One of those classrooms was converted to remote learning because it had an outbreak, meaning at least two cases tied to the same location within a school within a two-week period.
More than 200 students had to be quarantined for being “close contacts” with another COVID-19 positive individual and nine school buildings are being monitored for possible outbreak events, Heid said.
Since Oct. 16, Heid said, District 300 has had 59 elementary school teachers either test positive or quarantine because of an exposure, 35 of whom had been in-person instructors. Three building principals and one assistant principal also are currently in quarantine.
“Our school teams have done an amazing job backfilling these positions, but we are quickly exhausting our resources and have reached a point where confirmed COVID-19 cases and COVID-19-related events are beginning to adversely impact our ability to deliver in-person instruction,” Heid said.
State officials announced Thursday that tighter restrictions on bars and restaurants in Region 9, which is made up of Lake and McHenry counties, would go into place on Saturday after it experienced three consecutive days with a COVID-19 positivity rate above 8%.
District 47 was the only one of four feeder schools into Crystal Lake High School District 155 to remain hybrid in the face of worsening COVID-19 metrics and a recommendation last Thursday from the McHenry County Department of Health for schools to consider remote learning.
The district reported 12 new positive COVID-19 cases for the week ending Oct. 23, according to the district’s dashboard. It had reported 15 cases the week before, a jump from the two weeks before that when a total of three cases had been reported.
The two districts were among at least nine districts serving McHenry County to say that they were going to stick with their hybrid or fully in-person models despite the guidance. At least eight districts announced they would be heeding the advice and either returning to or staying with remote learning.
District 47’s decision last week sparked criticism from some parents, who chose in-person learning for their students based on their understanding that the district would follow the local health department’s guidance. Their concerns mainly lay with the safety of their students and their teachers.
Other parents were happy with the school’s decision, saying their kids learned better in person.
With numbers getting worse, however, District 47 reversed course and decided to take what the Illinois Department of Public Health calls an “adaptive pause” on hybrid learning.
According to the IDPH, an adaptive pause is a strategy allowing for movement into any level of remote learning to prevent disease transmission during a pandemic. No set time frame is associated with an adaptive pause, allowing school district officials to made that determination based on their local transmission and infection rates.
Several adaptive pauses may be needed until COVID-19 transmission is controlled and an effective vaccine is available, the IDPH advised.
The IDPH said the goal of implementing these suggested interventions is to reduce the frequency of these interruptions and allowing for in-person learning when feasible.
“It has been important to our Board of Education to be able to provide families with a choice in learning model for their child[ren] throughout this pandemic,” District 47 said in the Facebook post. “We are all in agreement that face-to-face teaching and learning is what’s best for our students and we are all disappointed to have to temporarily suspend in-person instruction. It is our hope that we’ll be able to resume our hybrid model for the second trimester. However, as we continue to prioritize the health and safety of our staff, students and families, an adaptive pause is what is currently appropriate.”
Reaction to the district’s decision on social media was swift, with some parents thanking District 47 for making a “tough call” and others saying it would harm children even more.
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