Back-to-School Update from Dr. Carol Kelley - Jan. 14, 2021

Dear District 97 Community,

I hope you all had a wonderful winter break and got some much needed rest! Today, I’m sharing a recap of our update to the District 97 Board of Education on January 12, including important information about:

  • Hybrid learning enrollment and schedules for Trimester 2
  • COVID-19 vaccines
  • Guiding metrics

The board meeting recording can be found by clicking here. The back-to-school presentation begins at 58:00, and time stamps for the updates are included below. 

Hybrid Learning Enrollment and Schedules for Trimester 2 (1:18:00)

Thank you to all of our families who completed our Trimester 2 Learning Selection Form by the January 6 deadline. Overall, hybrid enrollment was 53.6% for the district as a whole; 46.4% of students will continue with full-time remote learning. (Click here to view the enrollment numbers.)
After further reviewing numbers by school and classroom, we have determined that the district will be able to accommodate the schedules that we previously shared for lower enrollment (less than 54%) for the duration of Trimester 2. This means we will not need to cohort students into A/B groups.

  • Elementary students will be in person FIVE days per week.
  • Middle school school students will be in person FOUR days per week (Monday through Thursday) on a three-week rotation by grade level.

The District 97 Board of Education will hold a special meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 20, at 3:30 p.m. We anticipate being able to send the final schedules to staff and families after that meeting.

COVID-19 Vaccines (58:40)

District 97 continues to communicate regularly with officials from the Oak Park Department of Public Health regarding COVID-19 vaccinations. As you may be aware, the Illinois Department of Public Health has determined that school staff will be part of the 1b distribution group. As of today, the village is still in Phase 1a, and we do not have a definitive date for when Phase 1b will begin. However, we are working closely with the village to prepare for this transition, and hope to share more information very soon. Further details about the village’s vaccination planning and status can be found at

Guiding Metrics (1:16:00)

There have been many questions regarding the health metrics our district is considering to make a determination for reopening. When we published our plan last October, we focused on the local case incidence rate and regional positivity rate, with strong reliance on a document released by the Harvard Global Health Institute, “Path to Zero and Schools: Achieving Pandemic Resilient Teaching and Learning Spaces.”
Since then, the same group of experts released a new report, “Schools and the Path to Zero.” This updated guidance acknowledges that community-spread metrics still serve as important pieces of information, but the recommendation is that schools focus on rates of in-school transmission and the quality of infection control. To that end, we have learned a great deal from school districts that have been safely operating since the fall, and we have spent a significant amount of time developing our own mitigation strategies and response protocols as part of our COVID-19 safety plans.
With all of this in mind, we do believe that it’s important to review and reconsider our metrics to ensure that they are aligned with the most up-to-date public health guidance for schools. District staff met Thursday with local infectious disease doctors and an epidemiologist in order to help us better understand current guidance related to metrics and infection control, and to provide focused direction on how to proceed moving forward. We are planning to share an update on this work during our Jan. 20 special board meeting.
We understand that it may feel like the bar has changed over time, and truthfully, it has. The unprecedented nature of this pandemic has required all of us to adapt our practices almost daily as we learn more about the virus, how it spreads and how we can reduce transmission. Our district is committed to seeking the most up-to-date information and expertise to make decisions that align with our values and support the health and safety of our school community.

Next Steps

  • We are still targeting February 1 for a transition to hybrid learning.
  • A special board meeting will be held Wednesday, Jan. 20, at 3:30 p.m. to discuss final schedules and metrics.
  • Buildings will finalize their health/safety plans for hybrid learning. We are also planning professional development for staff to learn our new procedures.
  • Finalize the district’s Framework for Reopening for Schools and continue updating our FAQ document.

Thank you very much for your attention to this lengthy update. As always, I appreciate your patience and continued partnership as we work to reopen our schools.
Dr. Carol Kelley