District 91 will continue with remote learning until Jan. 22, the end of the second quarter, and will re-evaluate prior to that for the rest of the school year.
At an Oct. 8 board of education meeting, Supt. Lou Cavallo said although he personally wants to bring students back at least one day per week for in-person learning, the decision was made to keep kids learning remotely for now.
Cavallo reported that 54.4 percent of parents, in a survey with a higher response rate than any other offered by the district, said they wanted to stick with remote learning as it currently is. And 67.5 percent of staff want to remain in remote learning.
In looking at different metrics to make the decision, Cavallo said that Forest Park’s COVID-19 positivity rate is extremely low. However, the town is relatively small, and it’s surrounded by towns with considerably higher positivity rates. To add to that, 83 percent of staff live in other towns, and “a good portion of our parents in Forest Park work outside the town,” said Cavallo.
Since Forest Park is less self-contained than a suburb like Naperville, the positivity rate alone isn’t sufficient to make the decision, Cavallo said.
Another reason to continue remote learning for now is that with flu season beginning, symptom screening for COVID will be complicated since many of the signs and symptoms of the flu are the same for COVID.
And with holidays approaching, and people potentially gathering in greater numbers, COVID might begin to spread more than it has up until now.
Cavallo said he also talks regularly with other school districts, including the other District 209 feeder districts, most of which are planning on remaining remote for now.
Additionally, there have already been two cases of COVID-19 among D91 staff. If students were currently in school, that would have resulted in at least two entire classes of students being quarantined, Cavallo said.
“We’re all devastated by what this is doing to our kids,” said Cavallo in reference to social and emotional needs of the students in the district. But in the interest of health and safety and following the desires of a majority of parents and staff, the district has made the decision to stick to remote learning until at least Jan. 22.