More schools return to remote learning following recommendation from health department
At least five McHenry County school districts have announced plans to return to or stick with remote learning as a result of an announcement from the health department that the county is seeing a "rapid increase" in COVID-19 cases.
The McHenry County Department of Health recommended Thursday that local school districts consider moving back to a remote learning model, stating that a number of the county's school metrics indicated "substantial" community spread.
Huntley Community School District 158 Superintendent Scott Rowe sent a message to families Thursday evening notifying them that the district's younger students will transition back to remote learning beginning Monday, Oct. 26, and all students will remain remote until at least Nov. 6.
"To have this shift become necessary at the end of the first week of having students in-person under our Elementary Hybrid model is heartbreaking," Rowe wrote in the statement.
District 158 students scheduled for in-person learning Friday were allowed to attend as planned, according to the statement. The soonest any students will return for hybrid learning is Monday, Nov. 9.
The McHenry County health department's guidance says schools should be in the previous learning model for at least 14 days before moving to the next one in the reopening process.
Rowe cited health department guidance as the reason for the shift given that three of the county's four main school metrics no longer meet the criteria for remaining in hybrid learning.
When the health department rolled out its guidance last month, it recommended school districts consider a return to a learning model with less in-person instruction when two of the four metrics are met.
As of Thursday, the county reported an incidence rate of 25 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people, well above the upper threshold of 14 cases. The county's positivity rate now sits at 12.7%, the highest seven-day rolling average rate reported for McHenry County.
The weekly count of new cases was last reported Oct. 4 at 313 and is "rapidly increasing," according to the district statement.
Four other area districts -- Woodstock District 200, Cary District 26, McHenry District 15 and Johnsburg District 12 -- also have announced they will heed the guidance.
District 12 Superintendent Dan Johnson announced Thursday all students will return to remote learning effective Monday, Oct. 26, and gave parents the option to keep their students home from school on Friday as well.
District 200 Superintendent Mike Moan said in a statement Thursday the district would again postpone its switch to a hybrid learning model, pushing off the move for at least the next two weeks and telling parents it would update them again in a week. District 26 announced it will transition to a fully remote learning model next week.
McHenry School District 15 will remain in remote learning until further notice and no in-person instruction will be provided to students as of Friday, including students in specialized education programs, according to an announcement on the district's website.
Prairie Grove School District 46 returned to full remote learning Wednesday after reporting an outbreak that began when a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
District 46 aims to resume its hybrid learning model on Nov. 2, according to a letter from Superintendent John Bute released Tuesday. The district has yet to say whether the health department recommendation will impact that schedule.
Harrison School District 36 is among four area districts that have said they will stick with their hybrid programs.
Richmond-Burton Community High School District 157 and Nippersink School District 2 announced Friday they will remain in a hybrid learning model.
Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300 also announced Thursday it will keep students in school for in-person learning.
District 300 Superintendent Fred Heid acknowledged that guidance from the McHenry and Kane County health departments as well as ZIP code-specific COVID-19 data relevant to the District 300 community all indicate increased spread of the virus.
Despite this, Heid said, the district came to the decision not to move to remote learning because the local positivity rate is increasing, but not among school-aged children.
He pointed, as an example, to the percentage of students ages 0 to 9 who have tested positive, saying it has remained "relatively unchanged" since September with a range of 5.6% on Sept. 6 to 5.25% as of Oct. 11.
Heid went on to say the district has seen "fewer than five" incidents that could be considered outbreaks, adding that temporary closures would be considered in the event of larger or more abundant outbreaks.
District 300 has reported a total of 34 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among staff since Aug. 14 and 95 others reported being sick but were never tested. A total of 41 district students have tested positive for the virus since Aug. 14.