Students, Parents and Families of Minooka CCSD 201,
Today the Board of Education held an emergency meeting at 1 PM to discuss recent changes and clarifications to the guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) regarding the required procedures involved with reopening school for in person instruction. At that meeting it was announced that Minooka CCSD 201 will begin the 2020-2021 School Year with Remote Instruction for all students through the first quarter of our school year. The most recent interpretation of the required protocols have made it completely unsustainable and untenable for our schools to safely open and remain effectively staffed. Monday August 24th and Tuesday August 25th will be Remote Instruction Planning Days, with the first day of Remote Learning for students on Wednesday, August 26th.
It cannot be overstated how disappointing this decision is for our Minooka 201 team to make to our families. The amount of time, effort and planning that our schools and departments have gone through over the past months makes this decision all the more devastating for our teams. We have established new safety protocols and procedures, procured additional cleaning equipment, increased cleaning schedules and had hundreds of staff collaborating on how to make in person instruction safe and effective.
After the Illinois Department of Public Health released its Frequently Asked Questions on August 12th our district like many others had some severe concerns with the requirements they mandated. We continued to have conversations and dialogue with local health officials to discuss our plans and procedures and believed we could safely open and function within that framework. This week we have received updated answers from our local officials that have made it clear that they would defer to all of the IDPH guidance, and that is the reason we have come to this decision today. Here are some of the areas that would make the continued operation of schools unmanageable:
- Quarantining for Symptoms - Our planning and protocols had assumed that any student or staff member that exhibited any symptom would be sent home and need to quarantine. The new guidance requires not only the individual to quarantine, but also the entire household. We would be pulling asymptomatic students and staff members throughout the day and sending them home for 14 days or until they provided a negative COVID test or provided a doctor's note explaining that the symptom was not COVID related. The number of students we would be removing each day could be staggering, and if staff are being sent home we would not be able to safely staff our buildings.
- Definition of "close contact" - Prior to this new guidance, a "close contact" of a positive case was anyone that was within 6 feet of the individual for more than 15 minutes at a time. Our discussion within the past week had included this in our planning. The new requirements indicate that a "close contact" is anyone that was within 6 feet or less for more than 15 minutes cumulatively throughout any 24 hour period going back 48 hours from the positive test (asymptomatic) or onset of symptoms (symptomatic). That is an unrealistic requirement within our schools and could be dozens of individuals in our hallways and classrooms.
- Definition of "outbreak" - The new guidance defines an "outbreak" in a school as being two cases within 14 days within the epidemiological center, which in most cases is the classroom. However this could expand to a school bus or the entire building if the students are exposed to more than one room. In the event of an outbreak the Local Health Department could shut down the entire building.
As stated above, these requirements do not make it possible for our school buildings to be able to effectively manage the tracing and isolation requirements and still effectively instruct our students in person. Each school will be communicating with families to outline the remote instruction routines and resources that the students will be engaging with. This was not how we wanted to start the year, but our staff have always risen to the occasion and will provide the students with a robust remote learning experience.
Finally, we understand that the timing of this decision will cause some families issues with securing daycare for their students. We do have an ongoing partnership with the Greater Joliet YMCA to provide families with a daycare option in our schools. Click here for more information.
We will reevaluate our learning option throughout August and September to assess whether in person learning can resume in the second quarter. As before, please email any questions to BacktoSchool@min201.org and the appropriate staff member will respond.
Kristopher P. Monn, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Minooka CCSD 201
Twitter @Minooka201, #201Inspires
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