Crystal Lake District 47 to return to remote learning

Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47 will temporarily return to a remote learning model starting Monday, about a week after the district said it was going to stick with its hybrid plan.

District 47, which has had some form of in-person learning as part of its hybrid learning model that 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 its 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 the post.

State officials announced Wednesday that tighter restrictions on bars and restaurants in Region 9, which is made up of Lake and McHenry counties, would go into place 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.

It's among at least nine districts serving McHenry County to say they were going to continue hybrid or fully in-person models despite the guidance. At least eight districts announced they would return to or stay 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 the district would follow the local health department's guidance. Their concerns are mainly with the safety of their students and their teachers.

Other parents were happy with the district'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 Illinois Department of Public Health, 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 make 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 Illinois Department of Public Health said the goal of implementing these suggested interventions is to reduce the frequency of 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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