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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – A north suburban high school student who passed away last week likely died from COVID-19 related illness, school officials said Saturday.

In a letter sent Saturday, District 214 Superintendent David Schuler shared the news of the student’s death with parents. He said another student is in the ICU due to COVID-19 as well.

“While we may be seeing a plateau in confirmed cases and deaths related to COVID-19 in Illinois, this is a dark week in District 214 that leaves me with an incredibly heavy heart,” Schuler said.

Schuler didn’t share the student’s name or which high school they attended, but a medical examiner’s report said a 16-year-old boy died at Lutheran General Hospital the afternoon of April 13 due to COVID-19.

In the letter, Schuler urged District 214 families to continue following Governor Pritzker`s guidelines during the pandemic by staying home, washing hands, and practicing social distancing. 

Here’s the complete letter:

Dear Parents & Guardians, 

As I am sure you are aware of by now, Governor Pritzker announced the suspension of in-person classes for the remainder of the year. As such, we will continue the implementation of our Remote Learning Plan and follow the guidelines set forth from the Illinois State Board of Education regarding academic expectations and performance. I am incredibly proud of how students and staff have responded and adapted to face the challenges of these times.

We have been actively supporting our community during this stressful time. District 214 has donated masks, gloves and gowns – used in healthcare classes and by our nurses and maintenance staff – to Northwest Community Healthcare: 340 N95 masks, 800 non-N95 masks, 1,014 hospital masks, 380 gowns, more than 2,000 boxes of gloves and 16 cases of soap.

Our technology department is utilizing our server infrastructure with a distributive computing program called Folding@home that is run by Stanford University’s biology research department. We are able to use our idle technology resources and have repurposed a server at each of the buildings to help with this project to better understand the COVID-19 virus and develop a vaccine.

We have expanded our PPE face shield project, and a number of our fashion and culinary students and teachers are sewing and distributing face masks. 

The District 214 Education Foundation has raised nearly $60,000 through the #214Cares fundraising campaign to assist students and families who may need additional support. Thank you to all of you who have made a financial contribution. To learn more about the campaign, click here. Students who need support at this time should contact their counselors or a member of their school’s administration. We are here for you.

I want to provide an update regarding commencement in light of Governor’s Pritzker’s directive to cancel in-person classes and its impact on graduation ceremonies this year. Anticipating that the governor might reach this decision, we have been working diligently the past several weeks to develop contingencies. Earlier this week we contracted with a media production company to produce a professional virtual commencement ceremony video for each school. Principals and school staff will be asking students to share pictures and videos for school-specific montages in the coming days. I do want to assure you that every student’s name will be read during the commencement ceremony on Wednesday, May 20. Each graduating senior also will be provided with a personalized, school-specific yard sign indicating that they are a Class of 2020 graduate.

I want to be very, very clear that we are not saying goodbye to our Class of 2020 at the end of May. The Class of 2020 has earned the right to be honored and celebrated. I have received a number of emails from students and parents about the possibility of postponing graduation until the summer. If the state allows large gatherings in June, July or August, we will definitely honor and celebrate our graduates on the football fields in their caps and gowns…and we will be having a Class of 2020 senior BBQ when we can. If we have to wait until Thanksgiving to celebrate our Class of 2020 with a special event, we will. We fully recognize our obligation to do well by each Class of 2020 graduating senior in our District, and it’s our commitment to do just that. 

While I know this is incredibly disappointing, by holding a virtual commencement ceremony at the end of what has been a terrible end to a senior year, my hope is that we are able to provide some sense of normalcy and allow students to receive their diploma and transcripts, and officially graduate on time so we can submit transcripts to colleges and universities.

Finally, it is my unfortunate responsibility to inform you of the passing of one of our students this week, likely due to complications related to COVID-19. In addition, we currently have at least one additional student who is in the ICU due to COVID-19. Our student services staff is working with family and friends to provide support during this tragic time.

While we may be seeing a plateau in confirmed cases and deaths related to COVID-19 in Illinois, this is a dark week in District 214 that leaves me with an incredibly heavy heart. We will continue to move forward to see the sunrise again one day; however, this week in our District is marked by pain and sadness. My family’s thoughts and prayers are with these families and all members of our District’s school community during this global pandemic.

During this dark and painful week in D214, I would implore you to please follow the Governor’s stay-at-home order, wash your hands and practice social distancing. Thank you for your review and consideration of this message and know that our staff is doing everything we can to support students, their families and friends, and fellow staff members during this extremely difficult time. Please be well.

David R. Schuler, Ph.D.