Parents, students question District 214's reopening metrics
Amid increasing calls across the suburbs for a full return to school buildings, parents and students in the Northwest suburbs took their turn Thursday to express concerns.
Members of a Facebook group called Reopen D214 came to the Northwest Suburban High School District 214 board meeting Thursday night to demand that schools reopen, and ask that a committee of parents and district officials be formed to get to that goal.
Many questioned the public health metrics the district is using to guide a return of students for in-person instruction, and suggested that, under those standards, it might be next-to-impossible for all students to return this school year.
"Stop trying to manage by statistics, especially when they're absent of logic and reason," said Tony Rosselli, a group organizer and father of a freshman at Buffalo Grove High School. "We're at a critical impasse for this generation's education. Children are failing. The students are mentally sick. Kids are in isolation and solitude for much of the school day."
District 214's updated Return to School plan, released Aug. 28, established four reopening stages based on weekly suburban Cook County COVID-19 new case infection rates per 100,000 individuals. Stage 1 calls for more than 175 weekly cases per 100,000 people, Stage 2 between 70 and 174 cases, Stage 3 between seven and 69 cases and Stage 4 for fewer than seven cases.
Right now, the district is in Stage 2, where most of the 11,000 students are learning remotely. About 125 students are in school buildings, Superintendent David Schuler said, including those in special education, and those in programs such as automotive, aviation, and practical architecture in construction.
Schuler said the reopening plan drew its selected metrics from recommendations and research conducted by the Northern Illinois Public Health Consortium Return to School Metrics Workgroup and Harvard Global Institute for Health. And, Schuler added, it would be that public health guidance and the COVID-19 numbers in the Northwest suburbs that would determine a move from one stage to the next.
And while some of the 20 or so speakers at the board meeting Thursday pointed to a number of private schools that have reopened, Schuler said those schools are smaller than District 214's public schools. The superintendent reiterated Cook County Department of Public Health guidance that anyone who has been in contact with someone testing positive for COVID-19 for 15 cumulative minutes over a two-day period -- essentially a few hallway passing periods -- would need to quarantine.
"If you have smaller numbers, you can really stagger the times for passing time and we just can't do that with a school of 2,000," Schuler said. "It makes it much more challenging."
But Schuler did announce plans to incrementally welcome back more students -- as much as half of the 11,000 enrollment. Whether in this stage or next, he said first priority would be to bring back students who don't have reliable internet, those who need academic support, those taking lab-based classes and, eventually, all freshmen.