Dear District 58 Staff and Families,
I have received a few questions from parents and staff about the transmission levels published by the DuPage County Health Department (DCHD) in the Return to School Framework and its impact on our schools.
The three levels are minimal, moderate, and substantial. Yesterday at 10 a.m., the DCHD moved DuPage County into the Substantial Level. Transmission levels are announced every Monday and it only takes one metric (e.g. new cases, weekly trend, positivity rate) to move to a more restrictive level. On the other hand, it takes changes in all of the metrics to move to a less restrictive level.
This elevated level of COVID-19 community transmission marks a shift in the DCHD Return to School Framework and represents a call to action for all DuPage County residents to practice the prevention methods shown to be effective:
- Wearing a mask whenever outside your home,
- Maintaining at least six feet of distance from others,
- Regularly washing hands, and
- Avoiding in-person gatherings, especially where all of these practices are not followed.
While the DCHD Substantial Level indicates a broad recommendation for remote learning, at the same time, the DCHD has said that school systems must look at a more expansive picture in determining whether to move back to remote learning. This data includes District 58 student attendance, staff attendance, local COVID-19 data, whether safety measures can be fully implemented, availability of testing, PPE supplies, impact of remote learning on students, and in-person data from other districts. The DCHD has also said that the rise in cases in DuPage is not related to exposure in schools.
I recognize that a press release from the DuPage County Health Department caused confusion and seemed to indicate that schools in DuPage County should be 100% remote. Although the document opened with that statement, the DCHD shared with districts yesterday they believed the language at the top of Page 2 of that press release would help everyone understand that hybrid models like the one in District 58 are appropriate to move forward. District 99 partner districts, including District 58, have communicated with the DCHD and the DuPage Regional Office of Education that the news release was not clear and created anxiety and alarm among our staff and community.
The safety measures in District 58 include placing students in cohorts to reduce movement and exposure. We have also reduced onsite attendance to less than 50% of students. We have instituted mask wearing for students and staff at all times (except eating and drinking) and we have set up measures in our buildings designed to minimize contact with others. Additionally, all students and staff are encouraged to frequently wash and/or sanitize their hands.
We remain vigilant in monitoring all of this data and will continue to work with the DCHD to determine whether to move to full remote learning. Currently, District 58, District 99 partner districts, and many school districts in the county remain open as of today based on the county guidance. Undoubtedly, there will continue to be suspected and positive cases among our school community and we will continue to work closely with the health department in conducting contact tracing and mitigating any possible transmission.
I know every bit of news causes anxiety and continual change is equally stressful. As the DCHD has said, we all have the tools to reduce the spread of disease in our communities - we have done it before and we need everyone to do their part. During a pandemic, no environment is risk-free but please know that the health and safety of our school community are of utmost concern and our highest priority. We are in this together.
Dr. Kevin B. Russell
Superintendent of Schools