Some parents upset at Hampshire High School’s ‘adaptive pause’ due to COVID-19 outbreak

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HAMPSHIRE, Ill. — Some parents are upset at Hampshire High School after the district informed them students will be going back to remote learning due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

At first it started out as a rumor as students filed into Hampshire High School at 7:30 a.m. Then, about an hour and a half later, District 300 sent an email to parents confirming that the Kane County Health Department notified the school that they must institute a two week “adaptive pause.”

There have been 37 positive COVID-19 cases since Sept. 28, according to officials.

The school hosted its homecoming, which was held outdoors, on Sept. 24. The high school has had 71 cases since the beginning of the year — compared to Dundee Crown at 23 and Jacobs High School at 24, which are other schools in the district.

“I was getting ready for work and my wife screams upstairs we’re back to remote again and I’m like ‘oh are you kidding me?'” parent Grant Lentz said.

At Hampshire’s football game Friday night, only immediate family members are allowed to attend — along with the band and dance team members.

“Personally I’m upset, obviously I’m her parent we’re their guardians,” parent Dorthy Pastorelli said. “For me, it would have been one thing to send off to school to say, ‘hey this happened last night, want you to be prepared for this.'”

At the football game, all spectators will be required to wear masks.

Students will return to class on Oct. 25.

The district sent the following statement:

“The adaptive pause at Hampshire high school is intended to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 while allowing students to continue instruction remotely with their regular teachers and during their normal schedules. District 300 will continue working in partnership with the Kane county health department throughout the entirety of the adaptive pause to ensure we maintain our singular focus: the safety of our students and our staff.”

“Yesterday, District 300 sent parents a message stating Hampshire High School would enter an Adaptive Pause from October 12th through October 22nd. We understand some parents and guardians have questions regarding how this decision was made. To provide full transparency, District 300 would like to give a timeline (including a link to documentation) of the events leading up to the decision to enact an Adaptive Pause. It appears conflicting messages are being provided by the Kane County Health Department (KCHD).

On Thursday, October 7th, the Kane County Health Department informed District 300 that some of HHS’s positive COVID-19 cases were epidemiologically linked. Specifically:

  • Six classrooms each had three linked positive cases
  • Two classrooms had four linked positive cases
  • One classroom with five linked positive cases
  • One classroom had six linked positive cases
  • The first lunch period had 12 positive cases (some, but not all of these were linked)
  • The second lunch period had 19 positive cases (some, but not all of these were linked)
  • The third lunch period had 24 positive cases (some, but not all of these were linked)
  • The fourth lunch period had 15 positive cases (some, but not all of these were linked)

Due to the high number of cases and their epidemiological linkage, the KCHD informed District 300 that we would need to increase our mitigation strategies at Hampshire High School to prevent further COVID-19 transmission within the school. Listed below is the sequence of communication with the Kane County Health Department that occurred to develop the additional mitigation strategies.

Timeline Leading Up to the Adaptive Pause

Thursday, October 7th:

11:13 a.m. – The KCHD called Sherrie Schmidt, District 300’s Coordinator of Health Services, to inform her they were scheduling an internal meeting to discuss the HHS cases and would reach out to District 300 afterward. During this call, the KCHD indicated they might recommend an Adaptive Pause.

3:15 p.m. – The KCHD sent a Zoom invite to District 300 for a virtual meeting titled “Hampshire High School Case Review.”

4:30 p.m. – KCHD met with District 300 (virtually through Zoom) to discuss the options available to address the elevated HHS positive student COVID-19 cases. During this meeting, the KCHD provided District 300 with three options:

1. Allow all vaccinated students to receive in-person instruction. All non-vaccinated students would receive remote instruction.   

2. Allow all students who participated in bi-weekly testing to receive in-person instruction. All students who did not participate in bi-weekly testing would receive remote instruction.

3. Observe an Adaptive Pause for 14 days. 

The District was also informed that we would need to close down all extracurricular activities during an Adaptive Pause.  

The District reviewed the various options presented by the KCHD and made the following determinations: 

  • Instructionally: District 300 administration selected the Adaptive Pause for the following reasons:
    • The District is aware that not all of our students are vaccinated.
    • The District is aware that not all of our families would agree to test.
    • Currently, the District is not able to facilitate twice-weekly testing for approximately 1,900 students.
    • We do not believe a hybrid learning experience is a sound educational experience for our students.
  • Extracurricular Activities: District 300 administration advocated to maintain our extracurricular activities. Through conversation with the KCHD, the District was able to continue with extracurricular activities if we agreed to the following:
    • All athletes participating in “high risk” sports would agree to COVID-19 testing before athletic competitions and practices.
    • Spectators for events would be limited to guardians of the players.

6:06 p.m. – District 300 received the Kane County Health Department School/District Outbreak Plan for Hampshire High School, which is available to view by clicking here.

9:12 p.m. – District 300 staff finalized the initial operational details and communication timeline related to the School/District Outbreak Plan 

Friday, October 8th:

6:45 a.m. – District 300 administration team held a meeting to review final details of the School/District Outbreak Plan.

7:15 a.m. –  Hampshire High School administration communicated the School/District Outbreak plan to HHS staff.

8:54 a.m. – District 300 administration sent Hampshire High School parents and guardians an email titled, “Important: Hampshire High School to Observe Two-Week Closure for Adaptive Pause.”

Decision

In speaking with Hampshire High School parents, some have asked who ultimately made the decision to observe an Adaptive Pause. In retrospect, the District completely understands how the first sentence in our email to parents created confusion. The first line of the District email to parents states, “Yesterday, we were notified by the Kane County Health Department that Hampshire High School will observe an ‘Adaptive Pause’ beginning October 12 and ending October 22.” This sentence was in reference to this document, which was sent by the KCHD to District 300. Adding to the confusion, District 300 is aware that when individuals called the KCHD, members in their call center stated the Hampshire High School Adaptive Pause was not implemented at the direction of the Health Department but at the direction of the school district. 

District 300 does stand behind the decision to enact an Adaptive Pause. But, to provide complete transparency, we would like to emphasize that throughout the entirety of our communication with the Health Department, there was no reference, indication, or suggestion that District 300 could act in a manner that deviated from selecting one of the three options provided by the Health Department.

District 300 is not and does not claim to be a public health expert. We depend on the guidance of our local Health Departments to provide recommendations to maximize student and staff safety. The District has enacted an Adaptive Pause as a short-term, 14-day mitigation strategy to increase the likelihood of longer-term success: keeping Hampshire High School open through the winter and remainder of the school year.

Legal Liability

Some parents have asked if the District is legally obligated to adhere to Health Department recommendations. The answer to this question is a bit complicated. If District 300 does not follow a Health Department’s recommendations, we are at risk of losing our tort immunity coverage. The Tort Immunity Act provides qualified immunity for school districts and school district employees in tort claims as long as the injury is not caused by the willful and wanton misconduct of the school district or the employee (745 ILCS 10/1-101, et seq.). Disregarding the KCHD guidance could undermine the discretionary immunity defense and may be characterized as willful and wanton or even reckless conduct. Such characterization would likely strip the District from any protection offered by the Tort Immunity Act and expose the District to significant liability.

Closing

District 300 would like all parents to know that we share their frustrations. We believe keeping students in classrooms is one of the most essential determinants for a successful school district. And, to be perfectly honest, students learning inside classrooms is the best part of working in education. While our organizational passion is to create opportunities for students to achieve success, the reality is that much of our staff’s optimism is derived from the energy students bring inside our buildings. We sincerely look forward to Hampshire High School students returning to in-person instruction on Monday, October 25th.  

I would like to thank all Hampshire High School parents for their understanding through the Adaptive Pause. The District will continue working closely with the Health Department to ensure we maintain our focus on providing the health and safety of our students and our staff.”

On Saturday, the district clarified their statement and timeline of communication with the Kane County Health Department:

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