Community Unit School District 300 chose to switch to remote learning for Hampshire High School for two weeks instead of two other options presented by the Kane County Health Department that would have allowed some students to remain in person, a health department spokeswoman said.
The Kane County Health Department clarified its role in the announcement last Friday that the school is taking an “adaptive pause” for 14 days and going remote only after an outbreak of COVID-19 cases.
The health department met with district officials to discuss the increase in cases and various mitigation strategies, according to a news release Wednesday. The health department recommended three options to help decrease the spread.
In addition to the 14-day adaptive pause, the other two options the health department discussed with the school district were to allow vaccinated students to remain in school, while unvaccinated students receive remote instruction, or to allow only students who participated in bi-weekly COVID-19 testing to remain in school, while those who did not participate would receive remote instruction, a Kane County Health Department spokeswoman said in an email.
Only allowing vaccinated students to do in-person school was not feasible as only 29% of Hampshire High School Students are vaccinated, District 300 Superintendent Susan Harkin said at a school board meeting Tuesday. The second option, bi-weekly testing, also was moot, as only 2% of students agreed to participate in testing.
“In option 1 and option 2, only a small minority of Hampshire High School students would have received in-person instruction,” Harkin said. “While some families actually are frustrated that options one and two were not selected, we believe that only offering an in person instruction to a small portion of students is not the best option perhaps for high school students.”
Deviating from the three choices was not an option, Harkin said.
“As challenges arise, I would like the community to know that we thoroughly examine all of the available information and ask critical questions,” Harkin said.
Students will not be allowed back on campus until Oct. 22.
“Generally, an increase of cases and/or an outbreak may cause for additional measures to be taken to reduce the impact of the exposure for a particular group or setting. KCHD is here to support our area schools in their efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19,” the health department said in the release.
In September, the Illinois Department of Public Health had reported an outbreak of 11 to 16 cases at Hampshire High School. But as of Friday, that outbreak was no longer listed. IDPH’s list includes outbreaks that were reported within the past 30 days.
The Kane County Health Department referred questions last week about whether an outbreak had triggered Hampshire High School’s switch to remote learning to the school district. Attempts to reach a district spokesperson were unsuccessful.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Harkin told board members that it was the Kane County Health Department that initiated a conversation with school staff at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 7, to discuss elevated cases at Hampshire High School. At 4:30 p.m. that day, the health department and school district had a meeting, which was where the three options were presented.
The Kane County Health Department shared with District 300 an email it sent to its call center staff that Friday, Harkin said. In the message, the health department said schools and the department would work in consultation with each other based on several factors, such as identified cases and close contacts, ability to implement screening testing for student, impact on operations, impact of events on transmission in schools and the extent of an outbreak within a class, school or sport activity and community transmission level.
According to the IDPH, an adaptive pause “is a strategy that allows for movement into any level of remote learning to prevent disease transmission during a pandemic. An adaptive pause may result in delayed reopening at the start of a specific school term or a pivot to remote learning once the school year is underway for school officials to have time to plan for next steps with parents, teachers and staff. An adaptive pause may also include a pivot to remote learning for a classroom, a grade level, a wing, a building or school – or districtwide remote learning. At all levels of community transmission, school officials may need an adaptive pause to consult with their [local health department] to understand community transmission metrics and to plan for how to respond to a given scenario.”
For information on school guidance, go to the Illinois State Board of Education’s website at www.isbe.net, the health department’s website at KaneHealth.com or call the health department at 630-208-3801.