Wilmette, News

‘Significant’ rise in Loyola Academy COVID-19 cases linked to social gatherings, club lacrosse practice

In-person sports, co-curriculars canceled until ‘further notice’

Due to a “significant increase in the number of positive student cases of COVID-19,” Loyola Academy has shifted to at least a week of remote learning starting Friday, Jan 22, according to a statement from the Wilmette high school.

The announcement sent Thursday, Jan. 21, comes just days after students returned for in-person learning following a two-week adaptive pause after the school’s winter break.

The statement – which is signed by President Rev. Patrick E. McGrath and Principal Charles Heintz — says the school nursing staff identified the rise in cases, and school officials found that a “large number” of the positive cases were traced to “off-campus social events” and a club lacrosse practice.

Loyola Academy did not answer how many student cases were recently identified or which lacrosse club hosted the practice in question.

New Trier High School students were not on campus this week, said Niki Dizon, the school’s communications director, who added that all students must complete a saliva-based COVID-19 screening before returning to in-person learning next week.

Loyola’s statement goes on to say that “ while the majority of COVID-positive students have not attended school in-person this week, the sheer presence of these numbers in our community gives us reason to pause in-person learning on campus.”

The shift to remote learning started Friday, Jan. 22, and school officials are targeting a return to in-person learning under its hybrid model on Monday, Feb. 1.

“Careless behavior and selfish decisions show little regard for our shared desire to be together on campus and the extensive efforts to get us to this point.

Loyola academy statement from President Patrick Mcgrath and Principal CHarles Heintz

In addition to the halt on in-person operations, all in-person sports and co-curriculars are canceled until further notice, the statement says.

Coaches are not allowed to hold practices or “other gatherings off-site,” school officials said, adding they “discourage students from organizing their own gatherings.”

This comes four days after the state lowered mitigation efforts for the region, allowing certain sports to practice in-person for the first time since November.

The school’s two top administrators express disappointment in the actions of some students throughout the published statement.

“As we have said so often, the decisions of a few impact the many. We are disappointed in the choices made by some of our students,” McGrath and Heintz say in the statement. “Careless behavior and selfish decisions show little regard for our shared desire to be together on campus and the extensive efforts to get us to this point.

“We ask that students use this moment to re-examine their off-campus behaviors. While our COVID protocols and mitigation efforts have been effective, we recognize that many are experiencing pandemic fatigue. This is not the time to let down your guard.”

The school’s decision to shift to remote learning mirrors a move made in late August when it pivoted to remote learning for two weeks after reporting six students had tested positive for COVID-19 and another 63 were in quarantine.

martin carlino
Martin Carlino

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.

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