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WeGo Back Online: northern Illinois school district forced to move remote for a week after 100+ staff COVID outbreak

Schools are trying to return from holiday breaks, but staff outbreaks thanks to the Omicron variant are causing disruptions in Illinois.

West Chicago Elementary School District students are learning from home again this week.

Superintendent Kristina Davis said they knew they’d have at least 70 staff members absent on Monday when they made the tough call to move remote. Now, a few days later, the number is up to 125 members who have tested positive.

“I think the initial reaction and response I heard from parents and from principals," she said, "was just a concern from students about is this going to continue? Is it going to be like last year?”

Davis said they had students and staff practice remote learning before break, just in case of a snowstorm.

“To make sure they know how to log on, where to go, how to use the technology, where the schedules are online,” she said. “And to make sure they took their technology home before break and that the teachers did.”

Davis said they’re planning to resume in-person on Monday. But it’ll still be a challenge to cover every class; some teachers may be forced remote while their students are in the classroom.

Current guidelines call for staff to quarantine 10 days after a positive test. Davis said lowering that number would help significantly.

The district gives parents an option to test their kids weekly. They’re rolling out test-to-stay plans as well, but testing is difficult too. Davis said West Chicago 33 is using their third different testing lab because of staff shortages at labs.

More than 4,500 schools across the country are being disrupted by COVID-19 this week. That’s the highest number for any point of this school year by far.