Naperville District 203 to finish the semester in enhanced e-learning stage
Naperville Unit District 203 will remain in an enhanced e-learning stage for the rest of the semester, as COVID-19 positivity rates and youth cases continue to rise exponentially in DuPage County.
The earliest the district could move into a hybrid learning model is Jan. 25, after winter break, Superintendent Dan Bridges said in a letter to families. But that transition won't be possible unless the level of community transmission declines from "substantial" to "moderate," or the district receives updated guidance from the DuPage County Health Department, he said.
"While I was hopeful that we might be returning more students to in-person instruction, unfortunately as we all see daily, the current state of the pandemic surging in our community and across the nation does not make it safe to do so," Bridges wrote.
Early childhood and elementary students were set to begin a hybrid schedule in phases last month. But the day before schools started welcoming back their youngest learners, Bridges announced the district would be taking an "adaptive pause" in its Return to Learn plan due to a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases.
According to the health department, DuPage recorded a weekly infection rate of 312 new cases per 100,000 people -- up from 152 two weeks ago -- and a 56% increase in youth cases from a week prior.
The number of positive cases reported among District 203 community members also has been rising. Metrics posted on the district's website show 22 students and 15 employees tested positive for the virus as of Nov. 2, compared to 12 students and eight staff members a week earlier.
Limiting the number of students in the buildings at a time is a necessary mitigation strategy to curb the spread, Bridges said.
In the enhanced e-learning stage, students follow a set schedule while primarily participating in their classes online, he said. Some will continue being invited into the schools for in-person instruction, including full-day preschoolers, students in specialized classrooms at all grade levels, students in the Connections program, and those who have been identified as needing extra support.
"We hope that the decision to stay in enhanced e-learning trough winter break, though not the best news for all of us who want to return to in-person learning, at least offers a certainty that you can plan around during this tumultuous time," Bridges wrote.
District 203 also has decided to delay its basketball season until later in the school year, the letter says, duplicating an announcement made Tuesday by Indian Prairie Unit District 204 Superintendent Adrian Talley.
State agencies have offered conflicting guidance on whether basketball should be held as a winter sport, both school leaders said. After discussing the issue with attorneys, insurance companies and other superintendents in the DuPage Valley Conference, they said, "all are in agreement that due to liability concerns, we will postpone basketball at this time."