District 109 Community Update
February 19th, 2021
GREAT NEWS: 2nd Dose of COVID Vaccine For Staff!
Today, over 500 members of the DPS 109 staff will receive their 2nd dose of the COVID-19 vaccine thanks to a partnership with Walgreens. We are truly thankful for this opportunity!
District 109 Moving Forward With March 8 Plan To Offer In-Person and Remote Instructional Models
There is general consensus among the many legal and medical experts with whom we have spoken that District 109 has among the most, if not the most, robust and comprehensive mitigation protocols in place that provide us a pathway to open schools for full in-person instruction.
As we have gone through this process, we have researched, reviewed, consulted and considered the guidance and expertise of county, state, and federal officials in both the medical and educational fields. However, not all guidance (the recent CDC release being the latest example) directly addresses our unique situation and the extensive protocols our school district has in place.
SHIELD TESTING: In order to provide effective screening testing, the CDC guidance recommends at least 10-20% of students be tested in a given week. We will far exceed the CDC’s guidance. At this time, based on the numbers of families consenting and potential medical or religious exemptions granted, we anticipate that over 99% of our in-person student population will be tested every third attendance day.
RISK MITIGATIONS & PHYSICAL DISTANCING: The CDC guidance notes that six feet to the extent possible should be the goal when returning students to full in person instruction. The CDC stresses where it is not probable or possible, layered mitigations strategies should be utilized. There will be times when strict six foot physical distancing will not be possible. However, in line with the CDC, U.S. Department of Education and the Illinois State Board of Education recommendations and guidance, we are implementing the following layered strategies to increase safety and space, including but not limited to:
Having assigned seats
Turning desks to face in the same direction whenever possible
Removing nonessential furniture from classrooms
Modifying learning stations and activities so there are fewer students per group, placing stations at least 6 feet apart to the greatest extent possible
Cohorting/podding to the greatest extent possible
Establishing the separation of students through other means, such as partitions
Eliminating the use of shared equipment
Providing physical guides, such as tape on floors and signs on walls, to ensure that staff and children remain at least 6 feet apart in lines and at other times
Creating “one-way routes,” or designating areas of the hallway and stairways
Reconfiguring bell schedules to streamline foot traffic and maintain practicable physical distancing
Staggering the use of communal places, such as cafeterias and bathrooms
COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION VS IN SCHOOL TRANSMISSION: A key question has always been “are schools safe even when community transmission rates are high?” As you are aware, the research and subsequent guidance has evolved since the inception of the pandemic. We have so much more information and data to guide our decisions than we did in months and weeks prior. We will continue to monitor the numbers from our zip code and county, as well as our own internal screening testing and quarantine data.
The CDC’s guidance states that “evidence to date suggests that when schools implement mitigation strategies with fidelity, transmission within schools can be limited.” This conclusion by the CDC is also supported in areas with high transmission rates by various studies and information on the CDC website (links here). The District’s extensive SHIELD testing, which will begin to pilot next week, will provide better, more accurate data to monitor the effectiveness of our layered mitigation strategies. This extensive testing protocol will allow us to assess and adjust what is happening inside our buildings at a level and frequency which the recent CDC guidance does not contemplate. Our COVID data dashboard will reflect our screening testing and allow us the unique opportunity to facilitate targeted decisions based on our School District data in real time.
All that said, we understand that priorities can shift and anxieties can be heightened with each new piece of guidance that is released. Please know that we are evaluating all of it carefully, closely, and methodically to assess what is best for District 109. As we have reiterated all year, a remote instructional option will always be available for any family that needs it at any time and for any reason.
SHIELD Testing Debuts Next Week
As promised, we are ready to begin limited SHIELD testing next week for DPS109 students and staff. Our teams are trained and ready to be deployed to buildings starting Monday.
Check out www.dps109.org/shield for:
FAQ & answers about testing
A testing schedule for the next few weeks
A demo video from SHIELD
Due to the condensed hybrid schedule and in order to allow extra time for test takers to get acclimated with the process the first time or so, we will be gradually increasing the number of tests we perform between February 22 and March 8. Only students whose families have consented to testing will be tested. On March 8, when we have more students in school and a longer school day to utilize, we will begin the every third day rotation of testing an entire building.