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Marengo’s Zion Lutheran School has not reported a single case of the virus among students or staff in the 54 days they have been in school

Leaders of local private schools told McHenry County Board members that in-person learning has been safe and successful for them, while many public school districts have chosen to heed guidance from the McHenry County Department of Health about returning to remote learning.

With much frustration and fear coming from community members who support either in-person or remote learning, Public Health and Community Services Committee Chairman Chris Christensen said he invited the local private school leaders to Thursday’s meeting for a fruitful, level-headed exchange of ideas.

It’s about “talking to some of the private schools that are having such success in keeping their kids in school,” said Christensen, who represents District 3 on the County Board. “COVID-19 doesn’t understand the difference between a public school and a private school necessarily, but I know the numbers can be different.”

Among the invited guests were Dan Bertrand and Merri-Lynne Seaburg, co-principals of Marengo’s Zion Lutheran School, who said they have not reported a single case of the virus among students or staff in the 54 days they have been in school.

“There is no reason why you cannot have kids in school right now,” Bertrand said. “There is no place safer for a kid to be than in the schools. … The virus is not being transmitted inside of schools.”

Bertrand referenced a Brown University study titled “Schools Aren’t Super-spreaders,” in which data on 200,000 students in 47 states from the end of September was analyzed to reveal an average COVID-19 infection rate of 0.13% of students and 0.24% of teachers.

Read more here.

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A crowd gathered at a D300 reopen rally Tuesday to have children return to in-person school at the Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300 Central Office on Harnish Road in Algonquin. Ryan (Rayburn/Shaw Media)

While Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300’s board approved bringing kindergarten through third grade students to a hybrid learning model as soon as it is safely possible, grades four through 12 will be remote until their second semester in January.

A specific date for kindergarten through third grade students to go to this hybrid model was not set at the school board meeting Tuesday.

The decision to bring younger students to a hybrid model earlier is because kindergarten through third-graders are at what board members say is a “pivotal” time in their education, and it is the age group that is struggling with remote learning the most.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, District 300 schools have been learning and teaching remotely since the beginning of the year.

At the meeting, a couple of hybrid models were proposed for kindergarten through high school students in October, although some school board members took issue with making this transition in the middle of the semester.

Read more here.

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Katie Myers teaches English on Thursday at Butler Junior High School in Oak Brook. Brian Hill (Staff Photographer)

It took all summer for Butler Elementary District 53 in Oak Brook to get ready for students to return to the classroom this fall.

Some students opted for remote learning, but about 60% of them returned to the schools. They started with half days, and more than a week ago began all-day in-person learning. The district has been able to avoid any cases of COVID-19 among students, faculty and staff, something Superintendent Paul O’Malley chalks up to the summerlong preparations.

“Overall, to date, it’s been pretty successful,” he said.

District 53 is one of nine suburban public school districts that started the school year with in-person learning. Administrators in several of the nine, which tend to have smaller student populations than many in the suburbs, report their districts remain free of COVID-19. One, Itasca Elementary District 10, is reporting four staff members and as many as five students have contracted the disease since school started Aug. 20. All the cases were contracted out of school, administrators said.

Northbrook Elementary District 28 officials notified parents Tuesday that one person at Greenbriar Elementary has tested positive.

When that happens, state guidelines require that anyone who is within six feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes must quarantine for 14 days or until medically cleared. Rooms have to be deep-cleaned and health departments are also notified.

“Yes, we have received reports of COVID-19 cases associated with schools — several individual cases and some clusters. Although this is unfortunate, it is not a surprise due to the high levels of community transmission,” said Karen Ayala, director of the DuPage County Health Department, which is not making that data public.

Read more here.

Related:Some elementary students are back in class, and suburban districts are weighing what can come next

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Ellie Luciano adjusts her backpack while keeping a physical distance form her peers at Wiesbrook Elementary in Wheaton

A bellwether for school reopening efforts in the pandemic, elementary classrooms in Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 welcomed back students two weeks ago for the first time in more than 170 days.

As of Tuesday, the district has reported at least four students and one employee have tested positive for the coronavirus. But the district hasn’t identified any close contacts with those cases across the 13 elementary schools. Administrators credit physical distancing measures for helping to thwart the spread of the virus.

After months of enormous challenges preparing for an in-person start, the district still faces the complicated task of keeping the doors open in elementary schools. It’s also one of the major suburban districts pushing for at least a mix of face-to-face and virtual learning for middle and high school students.

Elmhurst Unit District 205 is providing another template, gradually sending students back to schools. On Monday, elementary students moved to a hybrid schedule. Sixth and ninth grades will follow suit Sept. 21. Populations of students with special needs also are now receiving on-campus instruction.

Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300’s school board will vote next Tuesday on the district’s learning plan for the second quarter.

District 300 originally had planned on starting the year in-person but switched to remote learning. Now the administration recommends moving elementary, middle and high schools to a hybrid schedule for the second quarter beginning Oct. 13.

Read more here.

Editorial notes: During last night’s Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Brian Harris gave no date for reopening 220 schools even at a hybrid level much to the frustration of parents and students who spoke during the meeting.  

One could sense the frustration on the part of board members, but all Harris seemed to want to do was talk about metrics, doing more surveys and fumble with his PowerPoint slides. Meanwhile, only 80% of teachers and staff are willing to work on 220 property while the rest work elsewhere.

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Demonstrators hold signs along Harnish Road Tuesday during a rally for the reopening for in-person learning at the Algonquin-based Community Community Unit District 300 Central Office in Algqonquin. (Matthew Apgar/Shaw Media)

Saying that remote learning has not been successful, a group of concerned parents and students from Algonquin-based Community Community Unit District 300 rallied outside the Center Office asking district officials to reopen to in-person learning.

District 300 has been remote since the beginning of the year because of COVID-19.

Several speakers at the rally said they were worried for children’s mental health and the social isolation they might feel from not seeing their friends.

One Algonquin resident, Sharon Vandermeir, said her grandchild, in kindergarten, is not learning anything.

“She gets distracted easily, she’s bored, she doesn’t like to sit in front of a computer for six hours a day,” Vandermeir said. “The kids need an education, and Zoom is not an education.”

Read more here.

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Westminster Christian School in Elgin

Parochial schools across the suburbs are resuming classes either fully in-person or with hybrid instructional models even as most Illinois public schools begin the school year with remote learning.

They’re making the transition with temperature checks, face masks, social distancing, an abundance of hand sanitizers and other safety measures required by state education and health authorities, coupled with smaller class sizes, virtual learning platforms and one-to-one technology.

“What we are able to do that the public schools can’t do is meet our community and our students where they are,” said Erik Schwartz, high school principal of Westminster Christian School in Elgin which started classes Thursday. “The public school (system) is too expansive. They’ve got to make policies that fit the entire state or entire district, whereas we get to make policies that are for our school and for our community.”

Under a flexible hybrid model, a majority of Westminster Christian’s 260 students in preschool through 12th grade attend classes in person while roughly 20 students synchronously learn from home. Class sizes are between 15 and 20 students, and students can switch between in-person and remote instruction for health reasons or due to other circumstances. In school, students must wear masks regardless of distancing except when eating or excused with a doctor’s note.

Read more here.

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Hundreds of thousands of suburban children are resuming schoolwork within the next few weeks, but this year fewer than 6,200 of them will go back to their classrooms full time.

Only 9 of 105 suburban districts are offering “in-person” learning, the Illinois State Board of Education reports.

Another 30 of the suburban school districts will open with a “blended” model, where students are split into two groups and alternate between remote learning and in-class sessions.

The remaining 66 suburban school districts will have full-time remote learning, with kids having classes exclusively online.

Those opening for in-person learning are:

  • Butler Elementary District 53 in Oak Brook
  • Glen Ellyn Elementary District 89
  • Grass Lake Elementary District 36 in Antioch
  • Itasca Elementary District 10
  • Medinah Elementary District 11
  • Rondout Elementary District 72 in Lake Forest
  • Roselle Elementary District 12
  • Rosemont Elementary District 78, and
  • West Northfield Elementary District 31 in Northbrook

Read more from the Daily Herald here,

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The Barrington Hills portion of the District 300 attendance boundary is outlined above.

Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300 leaders have reversed an earlier plan to reopen schools for in-person instruction and instead will start the school year Aug. 17 with fully remote learning due a rise in COVID-19 cases in Kane County.

Originally, officials had hoped to bring back elementary and middle school students to a normal five-day schedule with some modifications while high schools followed a hybrid model.

Evolving guidance from state education and health officials and an increase in COVID-19 cases across the region forced the district to reevaluate in-person instruction.

For now, the district plans to be in remote learning mode for students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade through the first quarter, which ends Oct. 9.

Read more here.

Editorial note: Make no mistake, District 220 and now District 300’s decisions in less than 24 hours to scrap their plans for some classroom education this fall are primarily union driven.

 

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Gov. J.B. Pritzker took the unusual step Thursday of preemptively filing a lawsuit to ensure school children wear face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus when schools reopen in a few weeks.

The action filed late Thursday in Sangamon County Circuit Court by the state attorney general seeks a judge’s approval of Pritzker’s order that schoolchildren, teachers and staff wear coverings over mouths and noses among other measures to reduce the chance that the highly contagious and potentially deadly virus can spread.

It’s typical for the governor to be in court as a defendant seeking validation of a policy or action. In this instance, no lawsuit has been filed, but a public school district and two private academies have informed the Illinois State Board of Education that Pritzker no longer has authority under emergency rule-making to require face masks in schools and that they will be developing their own safety rules.

It was time to get ahead of the issue, Ann Spillane, Pritzker’s chief legal counsel, told The Associated Press.

Read more here.

 

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Illinois schools, which have been shut down since March because of the coronavirus pandemic, will now be allowed to hold in-person summer school, thanks to an executive order issued Thursday afternoon by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

But many area school systems — including Chicago Public Schools — have already announced that summer school will be held through remote learning, so it’s not immediately clear if such districts will change course.

The order states that all Illinois public and nonpublic elementary and high schools can open for “limited in-person educational purposes” once the regular school year ends. They can also continue providing food and other services, but must follow guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health as the state moves through the third phase of its reopening plan.

Any school that reopens must take safety measures that include anyone older than 2 years old wearing face masks and other appropriate personal protective equipment. Also, the number of people in a space will be limited to 10, maintaining a 6-foot distance between them. Physical contact and sharing of personal items is discouraged, and students and staff must adhere to regular hand washing and other cleaning and hygiene practices.

Read more here.

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