Avoca School District 37 - January 31, 2022
In This Important Issue...
- Continued COVID Monitoring & Easing Mitigations: Vaccinations, Masking, Metrics
- Black History Month
- MTSS 101 : Learn About Our Developing System to Fulfill Our Mission
Continued COVID Monitoring & Easing Mitigations: Vaccinations, Masking, Metrics
We are all observing the latest wave of COVID begin to subside. However, you might not know that we are still experiencing higher incidences of COVID in our schools than at any time in the last two years, so we are "not out of the woods yet." How do we get there?
- Please make sure your students have gotten the COVID vaccine and their vaccinations are up-to-date. Of course, consult your physician if you are unsure, but up-to-date vaccinations will make future waves less disruptive. You can sign up to get a COVID vaccine at many nearby Walgreens, just click here.
- Also, please upload your student's latest vaccination status and evidence to our secure site by clicking here. Knowing a student is vaccinated means we can reduce quarantine periods for close contacts AND once the state law about masking is lifted, we can begin to determine the metrics for safely returning to pre-pandemic operations (see below).
Sadly, masking has become a divisive issue for some people. For right now, we will continue to follow the masking guidance for a number of reasons.
- First, it is required by Executive Order, which has the force of law.
- Second, our medical advisor continues to recommend masking based on current COVID circumstances. (We are still experiencing our highest rates of the pandemic.)
- Third, there have been a number of studies which indicate that where mask mandates have been in place, lower rates of COVID have existed, including studies related to school districts. (These cannot conclude causality. Because of this, some emphasize that there are no studies that prove masking works, so masking should not be required; this is a counterproductive and less than cautious approach.)
Right now, based on the law, the incidence of COVID in our schools and community, and the guidance of our medical advisory and local and state health officials, masking will stay in place. However, superintendents statewide have implored IDPH to develop an "off ramp" for masking, i.e. guidelines for how and when we safely make masking optional.
If the state offers no guidance, and COVID rates return to Summer 2021 levels and our vaccination rates become sufficiently high, then I will revisit our approach to masking in concert with seeking additional expert medical guidance. Obviously, that will not happen overnight, and I appreciate your patience and support.
I do hope that if you disagree with this approach - and many have respectfully indicated they disagree - that you will share that disagreement by contacting me or the Board of Education in writing. I ask this so that we do not put our students and our staff in potential conflict with one another over a policy decision resulting in a strain in their relationships.
If we look at our COVID numbers over the last 2 months, we will see two sets of facts from which reasonable people might make different conclusions.
First, our Omicron surge started in early December, peaked in early January, and is now subsiding, leading many to believe that we can ease mitigations because the worst is over. We have eased some mitigations put in place immediately after break, but masking, previous levels of distancing, and following public guidance on isolation/quarantine remain in place.
Second, our incidence rates in school and the community are still high by COVID standards over the course of the pandemic. We are not yet back to the low numbers of the mid-summer 2021, when we contemplated making mask wearing optional.
Reasonable people will - and have - argued that these metrics suggest different courses of action. Currently, my emphasis is on safe in-person learning with as much pre-pandemic normalcy as possible. I do not want to jeopardize that in the longer term by taking short term steps prematurely. In the summer of 2021, many of us thought we were in a different place than we were and again in the Fall, pre Omicron. I am confident we will see metrics that offer us better decision making opportunities in the next month; I ask your patience so we can be sure.
You can see a weekly dashboard of District 37 cases by clicking here
You can see the Northwester COVID Dashboard by clicking here
Black History Month - It's About More Than That
Unfortunately, in some communities, the teaching of race and history in America has become an unnecessarily divisive issue too. Frankly, race and history in America are largely inseparable and ignoring the connections is more harmful than good. From our country's founding to its development, to its tragedies and its triumphs, we should all have a full picture of what has happened and who has been involved or, in some cases, excluded. Without such learning, we are doomed to repeat mistakes or make bad decisions that will affect our future.
And the teaching of any people's history should not be compartmentalized in a given month. Our teachers strive for inclusive learning - and research shows that such inclusion (around race, gender, ableness, language, ethnicity) leads to better experiences for students - whether in literature, writing, language, history, science, music, art, or more. So during the next month, there might be a greater emphasis placed on those experiences, tribulations, triumphs, and contributions of Black Americans. I encourage you to explore what you can learn about Black History, preferably with your student at home. Below are some websites that can help get the ball rolling:
MTSS & Viking Time Are How We Are Working to Maximize Each Child's Unique Potential. Please Tune in for this Introductory Session on February 8.