OPENING OF THE MEETING:
The Re-Entry Task Force virtual meeting was called to order at 4:03 pm on January 12, 2021 by Sari Montgomery.
Ryan Kuo (co-Chair, arrived 4:13pm), Dale Fisher (co-Chair), Jane Westerhold, Ed Rafferty, Ellen Schultz, Ely Jacobsohn, Emily White VanGompel, Eric Steckling, John Filippi, Rebecca Rudd, Sara Boucek, Sari Montgomery, Brian Wolf, Steve Serota, Joyce Rubenstein, Jeslie Jacob, Melanie Caspi, David Birnbaum, Michael Chen
Sari Montgomery provided the Task Force with a recap of the January 11, 2021 Board Meeting. The Co-Interim Superintendents affirmed the return to hybrid in-person learning on January 19th for pre-K through 6th grade students and January 21st for 7th & 8th grades. Sari noted some public comments made primarily by middle school staff who have reservations about returning to in-person learning. She stated that the Board and Administration will do everything they can to support both teachers and students for a safe return to school.
Ryan Kuo and Sari Montgomery referenced the recent Zoom meeting with Dr. Johnson, Professor of Pediatrics from the University of Chicago. Dr. Johnson continues to support research showing that students and staff can remain safe in schools if risk mitigations are followed closely. In the discussion with Dr. Johnson, we gained clarity that any potential changes to the amount of distancing is a function of age and level of mitigations in place - the articles attributing comments related to reduced distancing to Dr. Johnson did not delineate these factors and thus is not materially different from previous Task Force discussions on the topic.
Dr. Westerhold also updated the group on the availability of the COVID vaccination. It is not known at this time when district staff will be eligible for the vaccine. The Co-Interim Superintendents and District Administration are in constant contact with IDPH and the Lake County Health Department. They will continue receiving updates which will be communicated to staff and the community. Sara Boucek and Dale Fisher discussed the legal aspects of the COVID vaccine for staff, and Task Force members weighed in on the importance of the vaccine.
Dr. Westerhold provided an update on SHIELD testing after a recent call with their team. The saliva-based testing screener developed at the University of Illinois is still waiting on EUA clearance from the FDA. Dr. Westerhold will remain in contact with SHIELD personnel to determine availability of the test. The district will continue to offer PCR testing onsite for students and staff. Dr. Westerhold also shared that the district has secured some Binax tests from Abbott labs and that more have been ordered.
The Task Force discussed potential educational model opportunities that these additional mitigations could provide once in place - with the knowledge that new, more contagious variants of the virus would need to be factored in as new knowledge is developed. The Administration stated that they continue to work on our overall goal of having more time with more students in in-person educational environments with these new factors in mind.
John Filippi updated the Task Force on HVAC risk mitigation. He also noted that he is working on creating protocols for SHIELD testing in the district to be prepared for the roll out when the tests become available.
Task Force meetings will take place on the Tuesdays following Regular Board meetings. With that expectation in mind, the proposed meeting schedule would be as follows:
- February 9, 2021
- March 30, 2021
- April 27, 2021
- May 25, 2021
- June 15, 2021
Ryan Kuo thanked the group for their contributions. He indicated that the Task Force would be updated about potential next steps as the District transitions to an am/pm half-day hybrid schedule beginning on January 19th, and continues its work to find opportunities to expand attendance for time and student count. He adjourned the meeting at 5:29 pm.