D. 202 continues pause of returning students to in-person learning; delays start of basketball season

Tom Hernandez, Director of Community Relations

Plainfield – District 202 is extending its “adaptive pause” indefinitely and will not return more students to in-person learning until COVID-19 metrics improve. District officials will continue to assess COVID-19 metrics and guidance from the Will County Health Department.


As well, District 202 will not allow students to participate in basketball, although the Illinois High School Association last week said schools could do so starting November 16, 2020.


Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lane Abrell shared both decisions at the Board of Education’s November 9, 2020 regular meeting.


The COVID-19 seven-day positivity rate for Will County reached 16.5 percent on November 6, 2020 according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.


“We cannot in good conscience bring more students back into our buildings thereby increasing the risks to human health and safety,” Abrell said.


“I know some of our neighboring districts are doing different things. We wish them well and will continue to communicate with them as they face challenges of starts and stops to their in-person plans,” Abrell said. “But we are most concerned about our own students and staff.”


The decision regarding playing basketball is based on input from legal counsel, and guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health, State Board of Education and Gov. Pritzker.


The Illinois Department of Public Health placed interscholastic high school basketball in the “high risk” category for participation. The Illinois High School Association said practices may begin on November 16, however the governor immediately countered that school districts could face significant legal liability if they allowed high school basketball to be played this winter.


“We will continue to provide our input to the Governor, IDPH, ISBE, and the IHSA through our professional organizations and appropriate communication channels,” Abrell said.


“We anticipate practices will begin two weeks prior to any scheduled contests, whether before a delayed winter start or a start date later in the school year,” Abrell said. “As long as the sport or activity is categorized as ‘high risk’ by IDPH it is difficult to justify us allowing participation.”


About 300 multi-needs special education students returned to school on October 26, 2020. About 100 multi-needs students opted to continue with remote learning. They were the first group of students to return because they need direct attention and support more than other students.


District officials are concerned about the continued attendance of the multi-needs grades of students in light of the COVID-19 related numbers increases and encouraged parents to make contingency plans, Abrell said.


Preschool and kindergarten students were originally scheduled to return on November 5, 2020. The district announced an “adaptive pause” on October 26th as the number of COVID-19 cases started spiking. District 202 started the school year August 31, 2020 with remote learning for all District 202 students.


District administration will continue to monitor five key metrics:


1. Positivity rate (5 consecutive data points flat or trending down of COVID-19 cases in Will County)

2. Guidance from IDPH, ISBE, and CDC as well as Kendall and Will County Health Departments

3. Cleaning and disinfecting supplies are readily available and able to be refilled in a timely manner

4. PPE supplies readily available and able to be refilled in a timely manner

5. Substitute pool is greater or equal to the number of substitutes needed for in person learning.


Abrell understands parents wanting to return to the original plan for returning students to in-person learning announced several weeks ago, he said. However, conditions have changed significantly.


“The community and the county need to get numbers of cases or positivity rate back down to where they were three or four weeks ago, and we encourage folks to become substitute teachers and paraprofessionals,” Abrell said. “Doing those two things will get us back to our plans much sooner rather than later.”


The COVID-19 pandemic is a community health issue, not just a District 202 issue,” Abrell reiterated.


“District 202 is a huge part of the community, which is why we are being extra vigilant. What we do can and does affect many others, including our immediate and extended families, friends, neighbors and coworkers,” Abrell said.