Superintendent Dr. Catherine Wang reassured the District 35 community that officials are prepared to welcome students back for in-person learning on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
Wang updated the board of education Thursday, Jan. 7, on the school’s operational plan, offering a vote of confidence in the Glencoe district’s preparedness to transition from its two month-long adaptive pause.
“We are ready,” Wang said. “Our teachers are ready and eager to be back. I know our families and parents are eager for their children to be back and there is nothing that is standing in the way of that happening. We really feel like that is the right next step.”
District 35 announced in mid-November that its students will learn remotely through Jan. 15. Officials also simultaneously announced that the district will require a negative COVID-19 test to return to school on Jan. 19.
At its previous meeting in December, the board outlined its plan to ensure students and staff have access to the testing. As part of its gameplan to do so, the district sought to provide testing kits and necessary documentation for distribution to parents on Jan. 7-8.
The kits perform PCR tests, previously referred to as the “gold standard of testing, and could cost the district close to $80,000, according to previous estimates.
Wang said at the Jan. 7 meeting that the district prepared more than 1,200 testing kits for distribution to families and more than half the kits have been distributed.
Officials are slated to collect the kits from families Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 11-12.
The district has accounted for all but 40 of its 1,181 students about returning to in-person learning, Wang said.
“We’ll do one more additional communication to those (40) families to remind them of options where they can pursue a test on their own,” Wang said.
She added the district has so far seen a “really good and really positive” response rate.
District 35 has also secured the appropriate waiver that allows school nurses to administer the BinaxNow COVID-19 rapid antigen tests in-district, Wang said.
“Our District 35 nurse team was trained this week, and we do have an interest in launching a pilot use with staff for detection and monitoring.”
The rapid tests will not take the place of full PCR tests that the district is using but instead allow the district to more efficiently document and monitor symptomatic individuals, and if individuals are positive, move them out of the building and start implementing protocols.
Wang said the district is looking forward to trying the testing and that officials will bring back information to the board at the next meeting after they see how it goes.
District 35 currently has two student cases of COVID-19, per its district dashboard. The district’s data shows it has three cases of COVID-19 among staff members.
As of Jan. 6, the seven-day positivity rate in Glencoe is 4.4 percent, per the district’s data. New Trier Township’s seven-day positivity rate is 5.6 percent.
District educators could receive COVID-19 vaccine as early as late February
Local educators may be eligible to receive their COVID-19 vaccination near the end of next month, according to officials.
Wang told board members that educators will be included in phase 1B of the state’s vaccination plan. Illinois is currently approximately 35 percent through Phase 1A of its plan for administering vaccinations, according to public health data.
“Based on the local health department, we do anticipate late in February as an option for educators,” Wang said, while adding that it’s likely not going to happen sooner than that.
According to Wang, the district has been notified that school nurses are included in the tail-end of Phase 1A.
“We’re continuing to stay in communication with the health department to see when our school nurses can be vaccinated; all other educators will be down in (Phase) 1B,” she said.
Even when educators are vaccinated, the district will still be required to maintain all mitigation strategies, Wang said.
District 35 will continue its enhanced cleaning procedures and will continue to prepare vaccine information. Wang said the district will also coordinate options to facilitate distribution if possible.
As previously reported by The Record, New Trier High School told the Cook County Department of Public Health that it could serve as a vaccination site if needed. District 35 has checked in with New Trier to see how it can help, if needed.
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.