Jacksonville School District 117 intends to do everything possible to safely continue in-person learning, however increasing case numbers are becoming more concerning by the day.
District 117 Superintendent Steve Ptacek says the district is “strongly trying to make plans to not have to move to remote” learning. But District 117 is at an all-time high for student positives with COVID.
Ptacek says the previous daily high since the start of the pandemic was in early December with 19, and as of today, that number is now up to 51 students positive with COVID.
Currently, there are a total of 266 students who are out because of COVID across District 117, 51 who are positive, 36 students who are out with symptoms, and 179 who are excluded due to contact.
Ptacek says that the plan is to do everything possible to keep from going remote, but it’s by no means off the table. He says just as concerning is the cases affecting the number of staff able to support schools currently.
“The big concern with staff is we have twenty positive staff cases and twenty-nine out total with either being positive or symptoms. We checked today and the number of actual staff out, we have twenty-six staff out today and five that we were not able to fill.
Now that itself, unfilled does happen a lot of other days, but we are just really worried that over the next couple of days it could get to a point that we are having problems of fully servicing the schools.”
Ptacek met with building administrators on Wednesday and the Central Office team this morning to go over ideas, consider options and initiate plans for multiple scenarios if the surge continues to increase.
He says coming out of those meetings, going to a remote learning scenario is still the last best option. “We are once again going to resist that as much as possible because we do believe that it is in our student’s best interest and our community’s best interest to continue in-person instruction. We are working on a plan that even if our resources are taxed that we will still be able to provide in-person instruction.
I’m going to be working with the staff, with a staff letter that I am setting up today to get their thoughts. But, it is concerning at this point in time how many students are out, how many staff are out. But hopefully, we can come up with a plan that we can still stay in person.”
In an update sent out late Wednesday afternoon, Ptacek said the administration is proud that keeping students in school has been a top priority and that we are one of the rare school districts in the state that has maintained district-wide in-person instruction since the beginning of last school year.
Ptacek says schools around the area and state are either moving to temporary remote instruction or preparing for a move if required. He says “to be bluntly honest, there is a realistic chance that, if the trend continues, [District 117] will need to move to a temporary remote model.”
He says “Our protocols are working, but the transfer of the virus throughout the community is having a dramatic impact in our schools.”