Metrics Update 11/9

Update from the Metrics Reopening Advisory Team
Posted on 11/09/2020
Wilmette Public Schools District 39

Wilmette Public Schools District 39
Mikaelian Education Center
615 Locust Road
Wilmette, IL 60091

Metrics Team Update:

Our District 39 Metrics Reopening Advisory Team holds its weekly meeting every Friday morning. The purpose of the Metrics Team is to study important school-relevant metrics of COVID-19 and the District’s Reopening Plan in order to guide adjustments to our reopening efforts and improvements in health and safety protocol. Friday morning, the Team reviewed the most recent D39 Metrics Dashboard and full report, and the Board of Education was provided an update this morning during its Committee of the Whole Meeting. Below are critical updates from Friday’s Metric Team review and the Board’s discussion this morning.

Summary of Metrics Discussion:

  • There is mounting concern regarding the regional spread metrics for COVID-19 and diverging opinions exist regarding whether the district should remain open for in-person instruction.  Below are some of the most critical factors reviewed.
  • Throughout the region, there is concerning community spread. The region has exceeded 8% positivity rates and increasing new case rates.  As of Friday’s meeting, these metrics have fallen within the substantial range for approximately one week, and more within certain areas.
  • More moderate community spread with lower positivity rates are recognized in Wilmette and the Township, though these rates have been increasing daily.
  • The district has experienced relatively low case numbers within our schools, and has not seen an increase in the weekly cases identified. 
  • Throughout our district schools, we have experienced good success in implementing mitigation procedures and have seen no evidence of within-school transmission of the virus. We have successfully identified and isolated cases that originated outside of our schools, successfully moved close contacts to quarantine and then safely back to school, and implemented the guidance of the Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH). 
  • The structure and mitigation procedures of our schools help to make schools safer than many other locations throughout our community.
  • There remains a very real risk that increasing community spread and cases will increase the number of cases entering our schools from sources outside our doors.
  • Operationally, we need to take a closer look at the structures and mitigation procedures we have in place in light of the increasing cases throughout our community.
  • Governor Pritzker has ordered important mitigation procedures, but has stopped short of ordering school closures despite regional positivity rates above 8%.  Additionally, the Cook County Department of Public Health has not recommended closing schools at this time.

Recommendations for Action:

There are very real concerns about the increasing positivity rates and new cases throughout the region. While we have continued to demonstrate the ability to mitigate risk and transmission within our schools, we must take action now to continue to ensure that our schools are as safe as possible.  Based on a review of the metrics, input from the Metrics Advisory Team on Friday and support from the Board of Education, the district will be implementing the following for the week of November 16th:

  • Additional preemptive substitutes provided daily to each of our school buildings to support staffing needs and absences,
  • A closer review of our internal operations to continue to evaluate the safety of keeping our schools open for in-person instruction,  
  • Exploration of both saliva screening and access to PCR testing options for our students, 
  • Expanded access of PCR testing for household members of staff,
  • Weekly meetings with the Cook County Department of Public Health and local superintendents, and
  • Continued reminders to all of the need to practice healthy habits within our schools AND throughout our community.  
  • District teachers and staff have also been given the option to work from home on Thursday and Friday this week during parent-teacher conferences.

We are faced with an ever-changing landscape and a growing body of research and experience that guides our work.  We continue to successfully identify and isolate cases within our schools to avoid transmission. Yet, despite all that we have learned since last March, a lot of uncertainty remains. There is a very real possibility of school closures if positivity rates and new cases continue to surge, if we begin to see a rise in cases within our schools, or if we experience increases in operational challenges such as staffing. (These critical metrics are reported on our Metrics Team page as well as via the live data links on the page.) While we are taking the above additional actions immediately to help support our ongoing operations, we also must remain prepared to transition to remote, if needed.

What Parents Can Do to Help:

Please understand that we are doing all that we can to continue to safely offer in-person instruction. We need your help to slow the spread of the virus and to help keep our schools and other local businesses open.  Please help us by doing the following:

  • Pay Attention to Close Contacts - Please be diligent in paying close attention to any contacts you or your child experience. Please encourage your children to watch their distance and wear a mask when they are outside of your home.  Whether in the neighborhood, at school or playing outside, these habits help to keep us all safe from transmission and from quarantine.
  • Honestly Report - Do not send your child to school if your child (or anyone in your household) is ill, is experiencing symptoms or is being tested. Please honestly and strictly adhere to quarantine orders due to close contacts or travel. 
  • Watch your distance – Avoid large crowds and social gatherings.  Maintain 6 feet or more of distance indoors and outside. Avoiding close contact with all individuals outside of your home helps to avoid the risk of transmission as well as the potential need for quarantine. 
  • Wear a mask – This, along with social distancing, is one of the most important ways in which we can help to keep ourselves and those around us safe.  This is important any time you are outside.
  • Wash your hands

Future Meetings:

This Friday, the Metrics Team will review subcommittee work for each of the action areas identified above. The Team will also be discussing options that exist for adjustments to future weeks.  On November 20th, the Team will be looking at possible adjustments for the week of the November 30th following Thanksgiving break.  While we are taking the above actions immediately to help support our ongoing operations, everyone must remain prepared for a transition to remote learning, if needed.

Thank you again for your ongoing support as well as for your understanding in these very difficult and uncertain times.  We all benefit immensely from partnership with one another as well as our community at large.  Thank you!

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