Some DuPage County schools switch to remote learning after health officials warn of rising coronavirus risks

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DUPAGE COUNTY, Ill. — As the number of COVID-19 cases rise rapidly in Chicago’s western suburbs and across the state, some DuPage County schools are following recommendations made by health officials Monday and switching back to 100 percent remote learning.

New COVID-19 cases began to spike in DuPage County in recent weeks, with the 279 cases reported Friday nearly doubling the number of new cases seen in late September. The 7-day rolling average of 200 cases reported Monday is higher than its seen since the spring.

County health officials said they received reports of dozens of COVID-19 cases among students and staff in recent weeks, although it appears there weren’t any outbreaks inside the schools themselves.

Health officials said the overall increase in cases also increases the risk of school-based outbreaks, recommending students go back to 100 percent virtual learning Monday.

“Certainly these levels of community transmission being where they are today, and the sustained increase in cases and hospitalizations that we’ve been observing, certainly indicate that it’s appropriate to begin looking at more remote learning,” said Chris Hoff, DuPage County Health Department.

The DuPage County Health Department is attributing the increased spread of COVID-19 to more people gathering without masks indoors as they feel more comfortable among family and friends. 

Health officials said it is still at the discretion of school districts to decide how much in-person learning should be part of the school day, if any.

“While remote learning is recommended, school officials are encouraged to use their discretion and expertise to determine which populations of students should receive in-person instruction whose needs are less likely to be met by virtual instruction,” the department said in a release. 

One of the districts going back to remote learning only is Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205.

Kelly Sivewright is among the parents who will be back to juggling work and remote learning starting Wednesday after the district makes the switch.

“As a working parent, it’s extremely difficult to manage,” Sivewright said. “I think it’s pretty clear that the quality of their education is suffering too.”

Schools in Elmhurst made the call because the county is seeing substantial community transmission of the coronavirus.

“Keeping kids in school is our goal and should be all of our goals, but we really need to bring case numbers down to support that,” Hoff said.

The health department says it’s crucial people keep wearing masks and keep their distance to bring the numbers down. Getting back into the classroom depends on it.

“I mean it’s really difficult to believe that with all of the students and the staff wearing face masks that COVID is being transmitted at the schools,” Sivewright said. “My hope is that it’s just a couple of weeks we have to be in a fully remote model and in a couple of weeks we can at least get back to hybrid”

Naperville Unit District 203 had planned to start their second phase of reopening this week, but now their students will continue e-learning until Nov. 4. Kindergarten through 12th grade specialized programs will still meet in-person.

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