Dr. Russell updates community on COVID-19, learning models and more

Dr. Russell updates community on COVID-19, learning models and more

This letter was originally printed in the Nov. 18, 2020 issue of Communicate 58, which was emailed to all families and staff.

Dear District 58 Families and Staff,

This past Monday, District 58 began what school districts refer to as an “adaptive pause.” An adaptive pause is a temporary shift to remote learning for most students. The District had no choice but to make this temporary shift due to the high number of COVID-19-related student and staff absences. Per Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines:

Students and staff who have confirmed COVID-19 cases must isolate for at least 10 days after symptom onset (or COVID-19 test date, if asymptomatic) AND for 24 hours with no fever (without fever-reducing medication) AND improvement of symptoms

Students and staff who exhibit any COVID-19 symptom must complete a 10-day quarantine (as described above), or get tested and present a negative test result, or receive an alternative diagnosis by a doctor

Students and staff who are a close contact to a confirmed COVID-19 case must complete a 14-day quarantine after their most recent contact with the positive case. If symptoms develop, please follow the isolation rules for cases. A quarantine must be observed, even if the individual receives a negative test result.

Since taking an adaptive pause, the nation, State of Illinois, DuPage County and District 58 have all experienced a sharp increase in positive cases. Stakeholders can find COVID-19 information about State and local data on Northwestern University’s COVID-19 tracker. Additionally, information specific to District can be found on the District 58 COVID-19 Dashboard

I continue to receive inquiries from staff and families on both sides of the school reopening issue. Several people in our community are advocating to stay in remote learning while many others have urged us to fully reopen the schools. There is a great deal of trepidation regarding fully reopening schools due to COVID-19. There is also a great deal of concern about the impact remote learning has on a child’s mental and emotional health. Superintendents wish there were a way to make this all go away and get everything back to normal. The truth is that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution that will satisfy the needs of all stakeholders. Guidance and data continue to change on a daily basis, and therefore school districts are left in a very difficult spot. I understand how frustrating this situation is as a parent. Like all of you, I live this daily with my seven school-aged children. In addition, my wife is a teacher and I see firsthand the impact this has had on those who are in the classroom. 

The District will continue to partner with local districts and the DuPage County Health Department to determine whether we will continue with remote learning or be able to reopen in our hybrid model. The District strives to give staff and families at least one week’s notice prior to making a shift to remote or in-person instruction. The District will communicate with families on Monday, Nov. 23 as to whether or not we will be able to resume in-person instruction on Monday, Nov. 30.

Preparing for the Unexpected

While it is impossible to know what the future may bring, as a District we must be ready and prepared for all possible scenarios. To that end, all District schools and offices will be physically closed on Monday, Nov. 23 and Tuesday, Nov. 24, and all students will be instructed remotely. This will allow our special programs to practice remote learning in the event a shutdown order comes from Gov. Pritzker; it will also provide all staff an opportunity to practice working from home in our current instructional model, which is markedly different from last spring. Please note that we have not received any indication that a shutdown will take place. However, the governor has strongly suggested this could be a possibility so the District must ensure that we are ready in the event a shutdown like the one we experienced in the spring is put in place. 

Maintaining the Current Remote Model at the Elementary Level/ Upcoming Feedback Opportunities

I have also received several inquiries as to whether the District would revert to the fully remote model that began the school year during this temporary shift. The District will continue with the current elementary remote model as it was built to shift from onsite to remote. Why? In September, the Board of Education approved a hybrid learning model that could shift to remote if needed; this was a significant transition for the entire district. Shifting the model at this time would cause too much of a disruption (especially since this is only meant to be a temporary shift) as schedules for support services, specials and special education would all have to be altered and services would be temporarily interrupted. However, we are also committed to receiving feedback on the current remote model. Prior to Thanksgiving, we will survey teachers and families about their experience. We will share that feedback with the Board, staff and community and use it to strengthen our plan. We want to make sure that we get things right and we are committed to reviewing the model and making any necessary changes. The District is committed to listening to our teachers and families so we can have the strongest model in place, and we encourage everyone to provide us with feedback via the survey.

Family Assistance

As we head into the holidays, please reach out to the District Office if you need any assistance. The Education Foundation of District 58 has established a COVID-19 relief fund that is designed to assist families in need, and we are happy to lend a hand during these challenging times. The District has also partnered with the DuPage County Board and Comcast to assist with delivering high-speed Internet access to any family that needs assistance. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of any assistance.

Thank You!

On a final note, I want to wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving. I am truly grateful to be the Superintendent of Downers Grove Grade School District 58. Leading this District is a true honor and the Board and I are committed to seeing us through this pandemic. There will be better days ahead and we are in this together.

Dr. Kevin B. Russell
Superintendent of Schools