CHICAGO (CBS) — Riverside, Brookfield, Lockport and New Lenox.
The number of school districts around the Chicago-area making a last minute move to remote learning is skyrocketing.
CBS 2’s Chris Tye reports it has everything to do with new Illinois Department of Public Health policy changes for the school year, and a hurdle many can’t meet at this late date.
Guidelines for the new school year came out in late June and again in late July. School leaders weren’t ready for another round of sweeping guidelines in mid-August. But that’s what happened, knocking out any chance for in-person learning for thousands of kids.
Massive pandemic rule changes are making the start of the school year even tougher.
“Our schools were not built for a pandemic,” said Kathi Griffin, President of the Illinois Education Association.
The Illinois Department of Public Health released new, tougher guidelines last week, drastically tightening in-person learning rules.
Green dots on a map reflect where in-person learning was slated to start in the area. But CBS 2 discovered several changes, like for example in New Lenox, where the superintendent wrote: “…updated IDPH guidance for reopening schools… include many additional requirements that we are unable to adhere to in order to reopen school safely.”
“It feels late to us,” said Robert McBride, Superintendent of Lockport Township High School District 205.
Four thousand high school students in Lockport also learning the late shift to remote learning.
“We will have to shift to a fully remote learning platform,” said McBride.
What changed exactly? Any student or staffer with any symptoms similar to COVID-19 would mean full treatment as though they have it.
“Sore throat, headache, fever, stomach ache,” said McBride. “We would have to isolate them, send them home for 10 days or until they get a negative test.”
They estimate that makes up 80% of nurses visits which could be 500 students a week. And for those sent home, the contact tracing hoops are complex.
“All of the classrooms that the student or staff member would have been in would have to be shut for 24 hours, which creates a huge ripple effect in our master schedule,” Griffin said.
A ripple effect that big districts are grappling with in the final days of summer.
“If you have a school with 3,000 students in it, it’s a whole different game,” McBride said.
School leaders like McBride understand that the IDPH is juggling the health of kids with the best practices of school, but this late change caught him, and school leaders like him, off guard. New Lenox schools are finalizing plans to delay in-person learning.
Where there are more in-person learning: smaller districts, including many downstate, where the logistics aren’t as complicated.