Dear Huntley 158 Parents & Families,
I want to begin this message by thanking all of our students and families for their patience this past week. It is no secret that the most recent surge of positive COVID-19 cases has had a unique impact on school districts all across our state and county. We are not immune to the strain that this increased level of positivity and high transmission has had on our available staff and ability to conduct our day-to-day operations as normal. We are incredibly grateful for our staff’s flexibility and willingness to serve students wherever it is needed over this past week. I want to reassure our families that we are currently doing everything in our power to find creative solutions and effective ways to keep our doors and classrooms open for our students.
Will Huntley 158 consider transitioning to remote learning?
We do know multiple surrounding districts have made the decision to utilize remote learning in order to combat these challenges. At this time, the state has not given schools the opportunity for students to choose between remote or in person instruction. They have been extremely clear to us that schools are expected to be open for in person instruction. The schools who have elected to take an adaptive pause and shift to remote learning have done so based on their own circumstances. Many of these districts have shared that the motivation behind this decision has to do with available staffing, not positive cases among students or staff. In Huntley 158, we will not be offering families a choice between remote and in-person instruction at this time. We know that the most valuable thing for our students is to be in the classroom, and we remain committed to providing them the best educational experience possible.
Updated Guidance for Schools from MCDH/IDPH: Periods of Isolation & Quarantine
Today, January 7, the Illinois Department of Health (IDPH) released an update which stated, “IDPH and ISBE plan to revise its existing regulations and guidance documents regarding exclusion from P-12 Schools to align with the time periods in the CDC’s Isolation and Quarantine guidance. Updated IDPH/ISBE regulations and guidance documents will be released soon.” This means the isolation and quarantine period for students and staff members sick with COVID-19 or considered a close contact will be reduced to five days in school settings. Please take a moment to review a summary of the CDC guidelines here.
This is an eagerly awaited step forward and one we hope will provide a significant impact on the time our students and staff are able to regain in our classrooms. In the interest of avoiding unnecessary adjustments for our staff and ensuring that we are acting in our staff and students’ best interests, we will not make any immediate changes to our procedures until the state releases their most up to date guidance. As soon as IDPH and ISBE release their revised guidance for schools, we will communicate our plan with families. This will include details regarding the Test to Stay strategy, any further changes to our quarantine and isolation practices, and a revised return to school timeline for students and staff currently in isolation or quarantine. We appreciate your patience and hope to have a comprehensive, clear understanding of what this means for our families by early next week.
COVID-19 Positivity Rate & Its Impact on Our Buildings
Our nurses and administrative staff are working around the clock in partnership with the McHenry County Department of Health to monitor the positive COVID-19 cases in our buildings and perform timely contact tracing, to determine if positive cases are linked in any way to indicate spread is occurring at school. While we have identified a high number of positive cases across the district as students return from two weeks of winter break, which are recorded on our district dashboard, we do not have reason to believe this trend of positivity is linked to spread in our schools. We will continue to engage all of the mitigation strategies available to us and work closely with our local health officials to identify positive cases and contact trace as efficiently as possible to keep our students, staff and community safe. To review all of the mitigation measures in place, please visit our website.
In the coming weeks, we know some of these hardships will likely persist, and we ask for your patience. If you are directly impacted by any of the circumstances outlined below, please know that we are working to serve our students and families as best we can. If you have any immediate concerns, we encourage you to reach out to your building principal.
- Transportation Delays: Due to a shortage of bus drivers, we have had to make strategic changes to our routes in order to service all students in need of transportation. We recognize that families may experience delays in their student(s)’ bus route because of this. Please know, our top priority is your student(s)’ safety on the bus. With the resources available to us, we are working to minimize these delays while keeping our students safe. Thank you for your patience and understanding. If you have a specific concern or question about your child’s transportation needs, please contact the Huntley 158 Transportation Department at 847-659-3000.
- Staffing & Substitutes in Your Students’ Building: To combat staff absences, we are relying heavily on substitute teachers. Because the 2021-22 school year has also been impacted by a shortage of substitutes, it is possible that staff members in your student(s)’ building may be asked to cover classrooms or fill the needs of their building in unique ways. Please be assured that our staff is working to come together to ensure our students’ needs are met.
- Events May Transition to a Remote Setting: At this time, you may notice the transition of some district and/or building events to a remote setting. Due to the high transmission of COVID-19 in our area, we have advised staff to make this adjustment for any event that can be conducted remotely over Zoom. You will be notified by your student(s)’ building or relevant staff member if this change is made.
I want to emphasize that despite all of these obstacles, the dedication of our amazing staff has allowed us to continue teaching and learning in impactful ways. We are grateful for our outstanding staff and families–your efforts make learning possible in our district every day.
Thank you for your ongoing patience and support,
Scott Rowe, Ed.D.