Dear District 97 Staff and Families,
We’re writing today to provide a few updates regarding our safety mitigation plan. We apologize for the length of this message, but please be sure to read it carefully, as it contains important information about:
- A temporary change to the district’s quarantine requirements;
- The status of our SHIELD testing program; and
- Documentation required for symptomatic individuals with a negative COVID-19 diagnostic test.
Temporary Change to District 97 Quarantine Requirement
For the 2021-22 school year, the Oak Park Department of Public Health is offering school districts two quarantine options for close contacts in order to support students being in school as much as possible: 1) 14 days, or 2) 10 days, with mandatory testing on days 11, 12, 13 and 14. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 are required to isolate for at least 10 days, per the IDPH exclusion guidance.
Although the district intends to utilize the 10-day option for close contacts this school year, we are temporarily moving to a full 14-day quarantine requirement, effective immediately. This decision was made based on a number of factors, including the current rate of transmission locally and statewide, and the fact that we have not yet implemented one of our key safety mitigations, weekly SHIELD testing (see below).
We understand the disruption that quarantines may cause students, staff and families, but we believe this decision is in the best interest of our school community at this time, given what we are seeing with the Delta variant. We plan to reassess this requirement in a few weeks, and will keep you updated on any changes.
*NOTE: Students in quarantine will receive remote instruction synchronously and asynchronously from a permanent substitute teacher. The substitute teacher will share a Zoom link with families and provide support and instruction based upon plans provided by building based teachers.
SHIELD Testing Update
District 97 initially set a target date of Monday, Aug. 30, for the first day of SHIELD testing. Unfortunately, there have been several delays in the implementation process due to the large number of districts that are working with SHIELD this year. These delays are out of our control, but we have been working to expedite the process as best we can.
The district is now targeting Thursday, Sept. 2, as the start date for a soft launch. We will test Thursday and Friday at two to four schools and work through any issues over the weekend. Full deployment will then begin on Tuesday, Sept. 7. We are still working through the scheduling with our third-party logistics and collections partner (Visit Healthcare), and will send out additional updates when we have more information. We appreciate your patience.
As a reminder, SHIELD is a free, non-invasive, highly accurate saliva test that will be conducted on site during the school day. Testing is optional, but strongly recommended, for all students, Pre-K through eighth grade. Currently, the district’s overall opt-out rate is less than 4%. For more information, visit https://www.op97.org/updatecenter/shield-testing.
Documentation for Symptomatic Individuals with a Negative COVID-19 Test
District 97 follows the Illinois Department of Public Health Decision Tree to determine when symptomatic individuals may return to school and the documentation required. Based on guidance from the Oak Park Department of Public Health, we have updated our requirements for individuals returning to school with a negative COVID-19 test. The following documentation will be accepted if a student or staff member was symptomatic:
- A negative confirmatory PCR result; OR
- A negative rapid antigen result AND an alternative diagnosis from a physician.
The school nurse will determine if a negative test is required for returning to school. To support this requirement, we have compiled a list of testing locations in the community. Additionally, students should not be sent to school until the nurse provides written clearance.
We know that these are challenging times for families, but we ask that everyone show grace and kindness to our nurses, who are working tirelessly to follow health department guidance and keep our students and staff safe. Please continue to assist in our efforts by keeping your children home when they are sick.
As always, we appreciate your patience and understanding.
Dr. Griff Powell and Dr. Patricia Wernet