Wilmette Public Schools students will learn from home for at least one week following the Thanksgiving holiday, Superintendent Dr. Kari Cremascoli said during the district’s Monday, Nov. 16, board of education meeting.
Cremascoli told board members and attending members of the public that the district will pause in-person learning for the week of Nov. 30. She added this decision is not currently an extended closure but rather a one-week adaptive pause after the holiday.
District 39 has 11 active student cases of COVID-19 and one active staff case, as of Monday, Nov. 16, according to the district’s dashboard. Thirty-eight students and five staff members are in quarantine, per the district’s data.
Right now the district is “very much” hopeful that it will be able to continue offering in-person learning after the one-week pause, Cremascoli said.
Neighboring district Avoca 37 announced last week a more significant in-person pause, from Nov. 30-Jan. 19. Four elementary districts in Northfield Township also are pausing through winter break.
While the district has been able to operate its school safely, according to Cremascoli, its ability to continue to do so is affected by “the alarming community spread” of COVID-19 and “increasing issues associated with quarantine.”
“From my perspective, we must ensure that health and safety remains a top priority,” Cremascoli said at the meeting. “And to safely and effectively operate our schools, taking a pause for that week following Thanksgiving break makes the most sense to us at this point.”
District 39 is operating under a hybrid model with elementary students learning in-person for a shortened day and middle-schoolers (Grades 5-8) alternating between in-person and virtual learning each day.
Cremascoli also said it is in the district’s best interest to preemptively plan for the pause. Doing so will allow two weeks during which families are following the stay-at-home advisory issued by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, she said.
During her presentation to the board, Cremascoli said operating in-person learning safely has become increasingly challenging because of staff-related quarantine measures, increased staff burdens, greater risks of COVID-19 entering district buildings and increased uncertainty.
“Our district and the board of education have made a very firm commitment to following the science, carefully monitoring the metrics, and to maintaining health and safety as a top priority of our entire district while also remaining committed to offering in-person instruction as much as we can, as long as we can do so safely,” she said. “We acknowledge that schools remain to be one of the safest places that our students can be, and yet we recognize that there are external pressures on our operations that are putting that in jeopardy.”
Cremascoli said the district has not seen any evidence of in-school transmission of the virus.
District 39 will continue to reassess its learning operations based on the metrics, staffing complications and quarantined individuals, Cremascoli said.
“We have every hope that we will see a stabilization of the metrics in the near future and that we will be able to continue after that one week of an adaptive pause,” she said.
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Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.