Dear District 97 Staff and Families,
We hope that you are enjoying a safe and restful summer. With the first day of school just a few weeks away, we know that our community has been eagerly awaiting details about our back-to-school plans. Our team has been working diligently this summer to prepare for the upcoming year, and we are excited for all of our students and staff to return to full in-person learning. Today, our goal is to share as much information as possible to help you prepare for the first day of school.
As we previously shared, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) fully adopted the guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for COVID-19 prevention in K-12 schools during the 2021-22 school year. This guidance recommends many school-based mitigation strategies as safety measures for staff and students. Per IDPH guidelines, decisions regarding the management of positive COVID-19 cases, contact tracing and quarantine were made at the direction of the Oak Park Department of Public Health.
In response to this guidance, District 97 has developed a comprehensive back-to-school plan to keep our students and staff healthy and safe while they learn in person five days a week. Our approach implements data-informed response measures that are aligned with the most up-to-date scientific research and best practices for K-12 schools. The plan also reflects rising concerns about the transmissibility of the Delta variant, the resurgence of COVID-19 cases, and the fact that the majority of our students (Pre-K through sixth grade) are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Below is a brief overview of some, not all, of the safety mitigations that will be in place for the beginning of the 2021-22 school year. New procedures are starred (*).
*Full-Day, In-Person Instruction for All Students: Per state guidance, remote learning will only be provided only if a student is placed in quarantine by the health department or if students qualify as medically fragile.
Universal Masking: Masks will be required for all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status. Distanced mask breaks will be provided.
*Weekly Screening Testing: District 97 will partner with SHIELD Illinois to provide weekly testing to all students in Pre-K through eighth grade. This is a non-invasive saliva test that will be conducted on site during the school day. Testing is optional but strongly recommended. No action is necessary to participate; those who wish to opt out need to complete the SHIELD Opt-Out Form by Tuesday, Aug. 10. CLICK HERE to learn more about SHIELD testing.
*Updated Quarantine and Contact Tracing Procedures: At the direction of the Oak Park Department of Public Health, unvaccinated individuals who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, or who test positive for COVID-19, must quarantine/isolate from school for a period of 10-14 school days. Students and staff may return after following the protocols outlined in our plan. As of today, quarantining is no longer required for vaccinated individuals unless they are symptomatic. The CDC and IDPH have also updated their close contact definition for classroom students, which we hope will minimize disruptions to in-person learning this year.
Daily Symptom Screenings: District 97 will continue daily CrisisGo health screenings for all students.
Physical Distancing: We will make every effort to maintain as much distance as possible between students—at least 3 feet—in classrooms and during lunch.
Cleaning and Disinfecting: Staff will perform regular school cleaning and disinfect all high-touch surfaces daily. The full classroom disinfection process will occur weekly.
As you are aware, the pandemic continues to evolve quickly, as does the guidance from the CDC and our state and local health departments. We are confident in our plan and our ability to adapt quickly as conditions change. All of our decisions will continue to be guided by our three priorities: the health and safety of our students and staff; providing consistent, high-quality learning experiences; and our commitment to equity.
Further updates about our back-to-school plans will be shared by the district and building principals in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can contact the district using Let’s Talk (2021-22 Back-to-School Plan/COVID-19).
We are looking forward to welcoming everyone back later this month. Until then, we hope that you and your family enjoy the remaining weeks of summer break. Thank you for your continued patience and support.
Dr. Griff Powell and Dr. Patricia Wernet