Dear District 97 Staff, Students and Families,
Due to unprecedented challenges, District 97 will be taking a two-day Adaptive Pause effective Thursday, Jan. 13 and Friday, Jan. 14. This decision was made after serious, careful consideration and in consultation with the Oak Park Department of Public Health in order to ensure the health and safety of our students, families, staff and community.
All K-8 students will engage in remote learning during the two-day Adaptive Pause and in-person instruction will resume on Tuesday, Jan. 18. We will continue to provide in-person instruction for early childhood at Whittier, PKP at Longfellow, and our multi-needs students. Further instructions for remote learning are included below.
Why an Adaptive Pause?
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) allows districts to utilize adaptive pauses when the large number of new cases makes it difficult for schools and local health departments to conduct prompt investigations to identify and to exclude/quarantine close contacts, or if there is an unsafe environment due to lack of masking and/or testing.
We have been in close communication with the Oak Park Department of Public Health regarding the high number of student and staff cases/absences we are currently experiencing as a result of the current surge of COVID-19 in our community. Our staff absences this week totaled 126 on Monday and 113 on Tuesday (representing more than 10% of staff district-wide). These absences are impacting every level of our organization, from classroom teachers and administrators to lunchroom supervisors, teacher assistants, custodians, nurses and school support staff.
We are also experiencing the highest number of student cases since the start of the pandemic (click here to view the district dashboard). Per IDPH guidelines, each positive case requires contact tracing by the school nurse, communication with staff and families, and implementation of safety protocols for close contacts. Contact tracing is a core safety mitigation required by IDPH, and the inability to know who is a close contact and to employ these steps could place the school at risk for substantial spread.
Due to the large number of new cases and critical staff absences, all of our schools are struggling to complete contact tracing and implement the required safety protocols for close contacts in a timely manner. The adaptive pause will give the district additional time to complete this work and seek outside resources to support our mitigations moving forward. It will also allow us to review the updated guidance from IDPH and the Illinois State Board of Education (published Tuesday night) and consult with the local health department about implementation of the updated protocols.
Remote Learning During the Adaptive Pause
Remote instruction will be provided every school day during the Adaptive Pause.
- STAFF: Staff will have the option of working from home or their buildings during the adaptive pause. Pre-K, early childhood and multi-needs classes will continue to operate on site. Please contact your principal or supervisor if there are additional questions and or concerns.
- STUDENTS/FAMILIES: K-8 students will follow their regular schedule of classes and participate in synchronous (live) and asynchronous instruction using their district-issued device. Information and instructions for accessing classes and assignments will be posted on their teacher web pages, learning management system (Canvas for the middle schools, Seesaw or Google Classroom for elementary schools). Attendance will be taken at 8 a.m. for the elementary schools and 9 a.m. for the middle schools.
Pre-K, early childhood and multi-needs students will be provided in-person learning Thursday and Friday. Families will receive separate communication regarding services.
Next Steps: Additional Communication and Staff/Volunteers
As we prepare for the adaptive pause, we are working to ensure that students have everything they need to engage in remote learning, including their district-issued devices and access to social-emotional supports. Families will receive information from school principals and/or classroom teachers regarding classroom-specific expectations.
District 97 has a critical and immediate need for additional staff and volunteers to assist in all of our buildings. We always have a need for substitute teachers and lunch supervisors (click here to apply). We will be sending out additional information about the sign-up process for parents/community members who are able and willing to volunteer. Individuals must complete a criminal background check, which can be done now. Click here to make an appointment or call 708-524-3000.
We know that an adaptive pause places a significant burden on our families. Although this was a difficult decision, we believe that it is necessary to create safer learning environments for our students and staff. We appreciate your support and understanding, and will be in touch soon with further updates.
Dr. Griff Powell and Dr. Patricia Wernet