Spring break might pose greater risk of exposure for students, families
Officials at suburban schools are concerned about students' increased risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus over spring break from what they and their families might bring back from their travels.
Nationwide, schools stagger spring break across a six-week period. A majority of suburban schools will be out of session over the next few weeks. Some officials fear the collective impact of thousands of families traveling and participating in various gatherings during this time could result in more COVID-19 disease transmission.
"I have greater concern about the volume of people who will travel over spring break, mostly outside the country, what that will potentially do to the number of cases and overall exposure events," Community Unit District 300 Superintendent Fred Heid said.
The Algonquin-based district already has closed two Carpentersville schools -- Dundee-Crown High School and Perry Elementary School -- through Sunday due to a potential case of coronavirus exposure.
Spring break vacations in Florida, Cancun, the Bahamas and other hot spots draw visitors from all over the country, which considerably increases the risk, Heid said.
Heid is advising parents to inform district administrators if they travel anywhere during spring break, especially outside the country, and to self quarantine if they visit countries on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's high-risk list.
District 300 already has canceled all nonessential travel outside the country, including a planned high school class trip to Italy.
Workers have been "deep cleaning" schools, emphasizing frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs and table tops. That will continue for the foreseeable future, Heid said.
Most school districts are following typical flu and cold season protocols, which involve sanitizing high-touch surfaces and disinfecting higher-use areas. Officials don't expect to step up cleaning while students are away.
"We are cleaning the buildings every night," said Morgan Delack, spokeswoman for Palatine Township Elementary District 15. "We have ordered hospital-grade cleaning equipment."
District 15 officials have not provided any specific guidance to families for travel during spring break. Students returning from high-risk countries with sustained widespread transmission are asked to stay home for 14 days before coming to school, as per CDC recommendations, and it will be considered an excused absence, Delack said.
Officials at Elgin Area School District U-46 and Mundelein High School District 120 say families that travel over spring break must adhere to CDC guidelines regarding countries that have widespread or sustained coronavirus transmission, and are urged to notify school officials about travel plans.