Aug 24, 2020
July 30, 2021
Dear CCSD21 families,
In a short 19 days, our 2021-2022 school year will begin. Like all of you, we had high hopes that we would be able to begin the coming school year with a much more traditional back to school experience. Throughout much of this summer we saw a period of loosening restrictions with infection rates of COVID-19 dropping and expanded access to vaccines. Unfortunately, we have entered into a new period of increased infection with the Delta variant of COVID being a much more infectious and transmissible form of the virus.
Given rising infection rates at the local, state, and national level, and following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the Board of Education on July 22, 2021 unanimously approved our 2021-2022 COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Plan which includes a requirement for continued wearing of masks. On July 27, 2021, citing rapidly increasing infection rates and new data on the ability of fully vaccinated individuals to transmit the Delta variant, the CDC revised their recommendation on mask wearing to include all those working in or attending school regardless of vaccination status. IDPH has confirmed that recommendation.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, CCSD21 has closely adhered to medical and scientific data and recommendations from the CDC and IDPH. Therefore, all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to CCSD21 schools will be required to wear masks indoors and on school buses, regardless of vaccination status.
We are very excited about the coming school year. Having all students back in person for full school days and the return of pre-pandemic extracurricular activities and sports are very welcome signs of a gradual return to a more traditional school experience. We look forward to that day when we are truly free from the daily considerations of how COVID-19 will impact our schools.
The current resurgence of COVID-19 infection, both locally and nationwide, is highly frustrating and causes great concern for how normal of a school experience we will be able to achieve this year. We also recognize the deeply held disagreements and passionate views within our community about how schools should cope with and manage this pandemic. Indeed, the one area it seems we are all able to agree on is that there are differing points of view felt equally passionately on both sides.
The best scientific and medical data (CDC-Mask use; CDC-Vaccination) conclude that the best way out of this is continued mitigation to minimize infection spread, including wearing masks, and vaccination for those who are eligible and medically able to be vaccinated. Recently, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the CDC, referred to COVID-19 as becoming a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” Dr. Jerome Adams, Surgeon General under Former President Trump noted that “… this pandemic is spiraling out of control yet again. And it’s spiraling out of control because we don’t have enough people vaccinated.”
Our entire community desperately wants the school experience of our children to be free of mitigation and management strategies. We should have a school experience where we don’t have to worry about how to socially distance children when teaming them up for a group learning activity or while at lunch. Unfortunately, we will not achieve that until we drive the level of community infection down once and for all.
It has been argued by some that COVID-19, including the Delta variant, does not impact young people and children as severely as older or infirmed individuals. And while this has generally been true, we are seeing growing examples of younger and younger children becoming seriously ill after being infected by the Delta variant, particularly in those areas of high levels of community spread. Arkansas Children’s hospitals recently reported a record number of children are hospitalized with COVID-19: “24 pediatric patients were hospitalized with Covid-19 on Wednesday (July 28), a 50% increase over any previous peak during the pandemic. Of the 24 children, seven are in intensive care and two are on ventilators.”
The mitigation and management strategies our district has and will continue to implement have worked. We have been successful in providing as healthy and safe a learning environment as possible and we will continue to do that as we enter the new school year. However, the COVID risk still exists and it will take a community effort to finally defeat this.
If you have chosen to be vaccinated and have your eligible children vaccinated, thank you.
If you have not yet made the decision to be vaccinated, please talk with your physicians, family, friends, and neighbors who have and please consider vaccinating yourself and vaccinating your children when they become eligible. Hundreds of millions of people in the United States and around the world have successfully and safely taken one of the available vaccines and, while on the rare occasion a breakthrough infection does occur, the severity of illness and mortality of the disease is greatly, greatly reduced.
Please, if you can, take the shot!
Let’s beat this thing together, in the spirit of community and caring, that has made this country great.
Mr. Phil Pritzker Dr. Michael Connolly
Board of Education