About two-thirds of District 214 students expected to be back April 5
Northwest Suburban High School District 214 officials are making spacing and other logistical plans to welcome back about two-thirds of the student body to schools Monday, April 5.
That's after the district received in-person exemption forms this week from 35% of families who want to stay remote, officials said at a school board meeting Thursday night.
It comes at the same time as planning is underway for in-person graduation ceremonies and proms. Summer school and the 2021-22 school year are likewise also expected to be in person, with possible remote learning for those who so choose.
"I think the end of April, you're going to see us moving into a much different environment, and that's just going to roll into summer and into fall," said Superintendent David Schuler. "We fully expect and do not see any way we will not be back in full in fall, and we're very excited about that."
For the past two months, about a quarter of the district's 12,000 student enrollment have been in schools on a given day, under the current phase of the district's reopening plan. It's allowed those who wanted to return for full, daily instruction to do so. But the district announcement two weeks ago of a fuller reopening on April 5 will increase those attendance numbers even more.
Officials said the decision was prompted by low transmission rates of COVID-19 in school buildings, the growing availability of vaccines for staff members, and new federal and state guidance on social distancing -- namely, that fully vaccinated staff can be as close as 3 feet from students, not 6.
Schuler said Thursday that more than 80% of district staff members have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, either on their own or through the district's partnership with the Greater Elgin Family Care Center. Teachers were lining up to get the shots at District 214's Forest View Education Center in Arlington Heights just days after Schuler was doing a radio interview about his desire to host a mass-vaccination clinic and one of the Elgin clinic's doctors gave him a call.
Schuler said the April 5 return-to-school date was chosen because it's two weeks after the vast majority of staff members will have received their second dose.
The superintendent and school board Thursday night heard from both those who want the district to be more cautious and others who said the reopening hasn't come soon enough.
Kaylyn Ahn, a senior at Elk Grove High School, read a number of comments from students who expressed concerns about classmates who may not adhere to mask mandates. Ahn also said students should be able to get vaccinated before more return to school.
Rich Menninga, who is running on the four-person District 214 Parents for Kids slate in the April 6 school board election, said the school reopenings are thanks to the efforts of parents who pushed the district in that direction.
"I know the administration and board will take a lot of the credit, but it's really all of the parents who have fought over the last six months to where we've gotten today," Menninga said.