U-46 plans to start hybrid for early grades Nov. 10

Elgin Area School District U-46 plans to start hybrid in-person instruction for students in prekindergarten through second grade on Nov. 10, if local health authorities support the move based on how COVID-19 cases are trending.

Students previously were scheduled to return to hybrid learning Oct. 20, but two employees in the district's transportation facility on Shales Parkway tested positive for COVID-19 within a 28-hour period. The department sent home nine other employees to quarantine.

In a message Tuesday to district families and employees, Superintendent Tony Sanders addressed the delayed in-person instruction.

"I am truly sorry that we had an outbreak (defined as two or more cases of COVID-19 that can be tied together by a setting) in our Transportation Department. At this time, five department staff have tested positive and the remaining members of the team must quarantine for 14 days," Sanders wrote.

The department maintains most of the staff members who route and dispatch buses, and it would not be possible to run as many buses necessary for pre-K through second grade without dispatchers, he added.

Sanders said nearly 2,000 parents said they plan to use district transportation when students return for in-person instruction.

"Many of these families are unable to provide transportation, potentially leaving many students without access to their in-person days of instruction. Further, carpooling could not be encouraged because of the social distancing and mask-wearing expectations," Sanders said.

All students in prekindergarten through second grade will receive online synchronous instruction on Mondays. Students opting for in-person learning will be split into two groups in each grade level, each attending classes in person two days a week and learning remotely the remainder of the week.

In early November, the district will announce hybrid plans for third- through sixth-graders, and some in-person options for middle and high school students.

To prevent another potential outbreak, Sanders stressed the importance of employees following health guidelines - wearing masks, keeping 6 feet of distance, and washing hands regularly.

"We will all need to be flexible as our local health metrics are demonstrating substantial spread of COVID-19," Sanders wrote.

While Cook, DuPage and Kane counties are in "substantial spread," the DuPage County Health Department is encouraging school officials to use discretion and expertise to determine which student populations should receive in-person instruction.

The Kane County Health Department has suggested U-46 work toward mitigation at the school level in the event a case of COVID-19 occurs. However, if the state or regional health authorities impose further restrictions, the district could revert to remote learning, Sanders said.

"For those feeling uncertainty, I do understand. I am confident we can return this small group of students safely. Other districts have been in session, including in parts of the state that have already experienced mitigation plans, yet they have found schools are not the primary sources for the spread of COVID-19," Sanders said.

For information, visit the district's COVID-19 site,

  Otter Creek Elementary Principal David Aleman helps students figure out where they belong on the first day of school in 2017. Elgin Area School District U-46 plans to bring students in prekindergarten through second grade back to class in a hybrid format starting Nov. 10. Brian Hill/
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