District 153 Superintendent Scott McAlister said schools will reopen on Monday after a three-day “adaptive pause” that closed Homewood schools due to high COVID-19 numbers among students and staff.
Staffing became a serious issue as more teachers tested positive for the virus upon return from the two-week holiday break. McAlister, with consultation from the Cook County Department of Public Health, made the decision Jan. 5 to close Willow, Churchill and James Hart Schools on what is classified an “adaptive pause” giving the district time to regroup.
Students spent the three days on a remote learning schedule. The younger students received work packets and the older students had access to technology to go online and follow class assignments, McAlister said.
“The decisions to take an adaptive pause as well as the decision to bring back in-person learning are not easy to make and involve much careful thought. Our district has an obligation to follow Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois Department of Public Health and Cook County Health Department guidelines,” said District 153 School Board President Shelly Marks.
She said the district wants to keep schools open, noting staff and administrators are aware students had “both academic and social/emotional setbacks during remote learning” when schools were shut down last year. “Our staff is committed to working with students and families to create an environment where students can thrive.”
“We all know COVID is not behind us, but I am convinced that the mitigations in our schools provide our students with one of the safer places they can be,” McAlister wrote to parents. “I do not believe it is a coincidence that we have our highest positivity rates — by far — the two weeks (of holiday break) when our students and staff were out of the buildings amidst a surge in numbers.”
The district will update its COVID-19 data dashboard on Monday. McAlister urged everyone to “do those things proven to help minimize transmission and health risks — vaccination, mask-wearing, distancing and hand-washing.”
District 153, Flossmoor District 161 and Homewood-Flossmoor High School all rely on substitute teachers to help fill gaps when classroom teachers are out. The Illinois State Board of Education has recognized the stress on districts statewide during the pandemic and has lowered the threshold for substitute teachers from holding a bachelor’s degree to having an associate’s degree or 60 hours of college credit. Persons interested in serving as substitutes still must meet licensure requirements. Further information is available online.