County suggests schools move to remote learning after Thanksgiving

Some districts prefer to stay open, monitor data


OGLE COUNTY – The Ogle County Health Department has recommended that school districts in the county transition to remote learning for all students from Thanksgiving break to mid-January due to increasing COVID-19 spread within the local community.

“Ogle County is experiencing significant community spread of COVID-19,” the health department recommendations read. “The Ogle County Health Department has recommended a pause to in-person learning between the holidays and into the first two weeks of 2021. The increased community spread raises the risk for higher rates of COVID-19 transmission in schools.

PJ Caposey, superintendent of Meridian CUSD 223, said at this time, the district is not moving to remote learning for the period after the Thanksgiving break. But he did say the district is monitoring the situation closely.

“Our data … seem to indicate that the virus is not being spread in our schools – so we did not feel as though having schools remain open would amplify the emerging community health crisis,” he said.

Caposey added that the district does offer remote learning for families in the district that choose it. He said about 20 percent of students are using that method.

The Byron CUSD 226 also does not plan to make a switch after Thanksgiving.

“Currently we are not planning on taking a preemptive pause throughout the holidays,” said Superintendent Buster Barton. “Our rationale for still providing in-person instruction to families who wish you take advantage of it is largely due to the educational and mental health benefits associated with having kids in our buildings.”

Barton said Byron also offers remote learning for families that prefer it.

“We have held pretty steady across the District with our in-person and remote numbers, which is approximately 85 percent in-person and 15 percent remote,” he said, adding that the district is roughly 1,500 students.

In Rochelle, Superintendent Jason Harper said the district also prefers to offer in-person learning, “as long as we can do so legally and safely,” he wrote in a release.

“We continue to monitor our student and staff COVID-19 data. In the meantime, we continue to urge you to make family plans regarding what remote learning will look like for your child or children and to secure a reliable connection to the internet. Secondly, the OCHD has shifted the responsibility of family/student COVID19-related communication (quarantine and contact tracing) to school districts as a result of the increase in positive cases across the county. Our nursing staff is aware of this change and will continue to use OCHD/IDPH guidance as we have since the start of the school year. For complicated cases, the schools may require direct communication with the OCHD.”

The health department said it is concerned that transmission rates during the holidays will make it difficult for school staff and the health department to keep up with contact tracing.

“The decision to move to remote learning is ultimately one of the local school board and the district superintendent,” the department said in a release. “The Ogle County Health Department is making the above recommendation for local school board consideration due to the increase in local COVID-19 cases, local hospital utilization, the assumption that families will gather with family members outside of their immediate household, most college students will be home during this time; increasing the risk of transmission and the local public health system’s limited ability to respond to the rapid growth in the number of cases.”