District 15 closing elementary school for 2 weeks after COVID-19 outbreak

Palatine Elementary District 15 officials are closing Willow Bend Elementary School for two weeks following an outbreak of COVID-19 cases.

A district spokeswoman said the school has had 40 cases of COVID-19 over the past two weeks, with 36 students and four staff members who have tested positive.

Parents were asked in an email at 11:21 a.m. today to pick up their children immediately at the Rolling Meadows school.

District 15 chief communications director Rebecca Latham said officials wanted to avoid using buses to transport the students home, if possible, to reduce the likelihood of additional infections.

Remote learning for all students and teachers at the school will begin Monday.

"While we know this will pose challenges for many of our families, we hope you will understand that we must place the health and well-being of our students and staff above our desire to remain open for in-person learning," Willow Bend Principal Robert Harris said in the letter sent to parents today.

Students are off the final full week of November for Thanksgiving break, so they are scheduled to return to school Nov. 29. They will not be required to provide a negative test to return to the classroom, Latham said.

The school provides Illinois SHIELD saliva-based COVID-19 testing, but it is optional. Latham said 54% of the students at Willow Bend participate in the weekly testing program.

"I want to assure you that Willow Bend adhered to health and safety measures recommended by the health department, including keeping 3-plus feet of distance in classroom spaces, wearing face coverings, washing hands and sanitizing the building more frequently," Harris wrote. "We are working closely with the Cook County Department of Public Health and are prepared to implement any additional measures they may recommend."

Districtwide, officials are reporting 23 new cases among students at the district's 14 elementary schools this week, three new cases among students at the four junior high schools and seven new staff cases throughout the district.

It's unclear how many other schools in the state are currently closed because of COVID-19 outbreaks. Illinois Department of Public Health officials said schools that take an "adaptive pause" of in-person learning because of an outbreak are not required to report that to the state.

IDPH records updated Friday show Willow Bend is one of 41 "active outbreaks" in Cook County schools, with two other District 15 schools - Thomas Jefferson and Stuart R. Paddock - also on that list.

There are also nine outbreaks reported in DuPage County schools.

The state report also shows five school outbreaks each in Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties.

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