Dear District 97 Staff and Families,
As reported on our district dashboard last Friday, the district has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases among both students and staff since we returned from Spring Break.
- April 4-8, 2022: 32 students, 9 staff
- April 11-14, 2022: 50 students, 8 staff
- April 18-22, 2022: 145 students, 22 staff
Last week, Julian and Brooks middle schools accounted for 103 (71%) of all student cases. The school with the most significant increase was Julian, which had 82 student cases (more than half of cases district-wide). This data was shared with the District 97 Board of Education during our community update April 26—click here to view the presentation.
The good news is that our data through Thursday afternoon indicates that the cases at Julian are trending lower (by 50%), so we are hopeful that the spikes seen last week are indeed behind us. However, we know that an increase in COVID-19 cases is concerning, and we want to assure you that we are monitoring the situation closely and reviewing all relevant data and mitigations to ensure that our schools remain as safe as possible. We believe that there were several factors driving the increase last week:
- Cases have been increasing regionally and state-wide due to the BA.2 omicron subvariant.
- We recently had a three-day weekend (April 15-17) that included three major holidays. Many families reported unmasked gatherings.
- Mitigations have been eased state-wide, not just in our schools.
- Students and staff are participating in more activities, both in school and their communities.
Based on our data, we do not attribute the increase in cases to our recent shift to hot lunch on April 11. That transition primarily impacted our elementary schools, which did not see a significant increase over the past week. Our middle schools have been utilizing their cafeterias since Fall 2021.
At this time, we are not planning to reinstate any of the mitigation measures that have been eased in recent weeks. This is consistent with CDC guidance for our current levels of community transmission and hospitalizations. However, we are taking the following steps to maximize the health and safety of our schools:
- Maintaining weekly SHIELD testing. We are still testing more than 3,000 individuals each week—more than any other district in the area.
- Adding air purifiers to all lunch rooms and conducting air quality testing in those spaces.
- Providing timely notifications regarding positive cases.
Face masks are recommended, but not required in our schools. Masking is strongly recommended for days 0 to 10 for all students who were exposed to COVID-19 (regardless of vaccination status). It is also strongly recommended for students who are returning after isolation/quarantine/illness on days 6 to 10.
The most important thing our staff, students and families can do to support our efforts is to stay home if you are experiencing any possible symptoms of COVID-19—even if they are mild. We have had a number of situations recently where students have been sent to school with symptoms and have later tested positive for COVID-19. It is critical that students and staff who are symptomatic or test positive stay home and follow district/public health protocols in order to prevent further spread in our schools.
We will continue to monitor our data closely, and will keep you informed. Thank you for your support and partnership in keeping our schools safe.
Dr. Griff Powell and Dr. Patricia Wernet