Update on COVID-19 Metrics in District 97

When District 97 published its original COVID-19 Guiding Metrics 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. It supports the use of community spread metrics as general points of information—not an automatic trigger to close or delay the opening of a school.

To aid the decision-making process regarding schools reopening for in-person learning, the CDC recommends the use of three core indicators: two measures of community burden/spread and implementation of key mitigation strategies and level of school impact. 

In alignment with this new guidance, District 97 will no longer assign specific metrics to our four stages of reopening. We will still be monitoring the rates of community spread, but this information will be considered alongside our ability to implement key mitigation strategies and the rate of COVID-19 transmission within individual schools.

Below is a summary of the core indicators District 97 will use to continually assess our ability to operate schools safely, regardless of the rate of community spread. This information will be included in our updated Framework for Reopening Schools, which we plan to send to staff and families by the end of the day Monday. We will also have a COVID-19 dashboard up and running on our website by Monday to publicly report cases by school.

Core Indicators

  • Two measures of community burden spread (reviewed weekly)
    • Village of Oak Park COVID-19 Status Report. This report, currently sent out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, provides a summary snapshot of the COVID-19 situation in Oak Park, including the case incidence rates for Oak Park and Cook County and detailed case information on the youth population of Oak Park.
    • Region 10 (Suburban Cook County) positivity rate using the IDPH website.
  • Mitigation strategies and level of school impact (reviewed daily to ensure that each building is safe for attendance)
    • Ability to implement and adhere to the following five key mitigation strategies:
      • Consistent and correct use of masks
      • Social distancing to the extent possible
      • Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
      • Cleaning and disinfection
      • Contact tracing in collaboration with Oak Park Public Health Department
    • Level of impact that COVID-19 transmission has had within specific schools. Some considerations include:
      • The number of outbreaks experienced and their proximity in time to each other;
      • The size of an outbreak(s) (number of cases/close contacts identified);
      • The level of spread within the school (e.g., whether cases are confined to a particular classroom or grade level); 
      • The level of student and/or staff absenteeism due to illness and the staff/faculty capacity.

Definition of School Outbreak: On November 4, 2020, the CDC redefined the threshold levels for declaring an “outbreak” in an educational setting. Five COVID-19 infections (laboratory-positive by PCR or antigen testing) occurring within 14 calendar days of each other in individuals in the same classroom would meet the case definition for an outbreak in a Pre-K-12 school. This is because the cases would be epidemiologically linked (by known exposure) with respect to place (same classroom) and time (within 14 calendar days). This would prompt an investigation by the OPDPH that may result in recommendations for testing and quarantining all students/staff in the affected classroom. 

These criteria and impact levels may change during the remainder of the school year as we better understand how COVID-19 impacts schools.