SKOKIE, IL — With less than 36 hours notice, administrators at Niles Township High School District 219 announced the cancelation of classes Monday and shifted nearly 4,600 students to remote learning for the next two weeks.
Superintendent Steven Isoye said a staffing shortage triggered his decision to implement an “adaptive pause” and call off in-person classes until Jan. 17.
“We made the decision to take a 2-week pause following guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) which says that school staff, faculty, and students will continue to follow the 10-day isolation period for confirmed positive COVID-19 cases,” Isoye said in a message to families Saturday night.
“At this time, ISBE has directed schools to NOT follow the most recent CDC update that people with COVID-19 should isolate for 5 days if they are asymptomatic or if their symptoms are resolving,” said Isoye, who is retiring at the end of the school year.
Saturday’s announcement of the “adaptive” pause came just three days after a message to families and staff laying out plans for Monday’s planned return to school.
The seven-day rolling average positivity rate for the five ZIP codes within the district stood at 10.2 percent as of Thursday.
As of Friday, there were 35 students at Niles North and 18 at Niles West who had tested positive, with five Niles North students and 18 Niles West students excluded due to quarantines. Across both schools, a total of 44 staff had tested positive and 12 were excluded as of Saturday, according to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard.
According to a follow-up message send by administrators late Sunday afternoon, Monday was scheduled to be a non-attendance day for students while teachers prepare a week’s worth of remote learning lessons.
Tuesday is due to be an independent remote learning day. Students are expected to check their emails Monday afternoon for instructions about what to do for the rest of the week.
“As a reminder, students are expected to engage responsibly and ethically with all technologies. Throughout this period of remote learning, we will strongly encourage cameras on for all students to maximize learning and engagement for all,” administrators said. “Should a student need to turn off their video for class, they will need to contact their teacher(s) directly via email prior to class to communicate this need.”
District buildings will be accessible to students and staff during regular school hours during the pause, according to the follow-up message. On-campus SHIELD testing for the COVID-19 virus will continue on Tuesdays during the adaptive pause.
As for sports and other student activities, which already require regular coronavirus testing for participants, directors will communicate protocols directly to teams and clubs, administrators said.
Skokie Patch requested more information from the superintendent about the closure announcement, which was not posted publicly on the district’s website or social media pages as of Monday morning. Any further communication received will be added here.