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This evening, Devon Horton, Superintendent of School District 65, announced that the District’s schools would not open for in-person learning on Jan. 19. He said, “The health metrics our District is considering have remained fairly stable. And yet, we are not meeting these metrics on any front.”
Dr. Horton said, “I know there has been some confusion around the health metrics our District is considering to make a determination for reopening. Our health metrics consider local positivity rates along with regional health metrics aligned with the Illinois Department of Public Health. This has included reopening with a Region 10 (Suburban Cook County) rolling positivity rate of 8% or lower for three consecutive days along with meeting metrics on hospital admissions. In D65 attendance area zip codes, we have looked for a 3% or lower positivity rate. Our understanding is that this local target is no longer advisable by local health officials and is something we must reconsider.”
Today, Evanston’s test positivity rate was 4.1%, and Suburban Cook County’s most recent test positivity rate was 9.9%.
Dr. Horton said the 3% test positivity requirement may need to be reevaluated. He said, “Every day we are pursuing new and better information. We must consider the growing consensus as of late among researchers and the medical community that schools reopening at higher regional positivity rates (greater than 8%) does not have a significant impact on community spread. In addition, preventative measures, such as mask wearing and social distancing, are highly effective. As I have shared from the beginning, we must continue to follow the emerging science.”
Dr. Horton added that while the District has had guidance from public health officials in the past, “there is value in consulting collective expertise in reviewing the most up-to-date information and research in order to chart our path forward.
“As such, I am formalizing a diverse advisory group of medical professionals, staff members, and parents to provide additional guidance and take a fresh look at our metrics as well as those that must be considered once in-person learning resumes.”
He added that on Jan. 20, he will share new reopening metrics with the community and a new date to potentially open the schools for in-person learning.
A group of parents who advocated that the District reopen its schools for in-person learning also urged the District to take a look at the metrics it is using, arguing that many schools in the nation have reopened safely.
“As we approach our reopening and continued pandemic response, I truly believe that we share a common goal of improving outcomes and opportunities for students while striving to maintain health and safety for all,” said Dr. Horton. “We also believe that in-person learning is optimal. We know there are students who are struggling in a remote setting and families who have shared concerns over their child’s mental health. For these reasons, we must continue to pursue an in-person return option as soon as health conditions allow.”