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COVID numbers are declining within District 87

District 87 headquarters
Eric Stock

COVID cases and quarantines are declining in District 87.

According to the District 87 COVID dashboard, nine students tested positive and 29 students were quarantined after being identified as a close contact to a positive case last week.

That is a significant drop compared with last month with numbers reaching 100 students at one point. But the change in quarantine numbers is because of new safety protocols.

Superintendent Barry Reilly said the district is not doing much different in terms of safety, but it has implemented a “Test to Stay” protocol.

“The only thing that's different is we're now implementing the tested day protocols, which simply allows kids who are close contacts of a positive case to be able to stay in school as long as they're asymptomatic and testing negative,” said Reilly.

But he doesn’t think this new protocol is contributing to the decline in cases.

“I don't really think it's because of that. I just think that in general, the numbers of the community are better,” said Reilly after the District 87 board meeting Wednesday night. “More people are vaccinated throughout the community, adults in our school settings ... over 85% of our staff is vaccinated. Think you factor all those things together and that's a good trend. Hopefully that continues.”

Although there is a decline in cases in the district, the few cases that are surfacing are not from within the schools, he added.

“I can tell you without question that the vast majority of cases that we have are coming from outside of the schools. This is not anything new. That's been the case throughout this pandemic,” said Reilly. “Really, the only thing I can attribute it to is the safety precautions that we have.”

He said he is optimistic about the oncoming colder weather not causing a large spike in COVID-19 cases. However, he does worry about other respiratory illnesses, but hopes to keep transmissions from occurring.

Staff shortages

On another topic, Reilly said District 87 has not faced extreme staff shortages, but it has been a challenge — with most issues related to bus drivers. Although they are contracted, Reilly said they have had to work around the shortages.

“The good news is we've been able to cover our school routes. We've had to make some adjustments with our extracurriculars. Things like we may not be sending a bus to an in-town event,” said Reilly. “So, if our high school teams are playing Normal Community at Normal Community, we may not send the bus, where in past years we would, and that just depends on the number of drivers we've got.”

School board meeting

During Wednesday's school board meeting, the board heard an update on how federal, state, and local grants were being allocated within the district.

A handful of people spoke during public comments, discussing masks and personal liberties. They spoke against wearing masks, contending they kept teachers from communicating as well as they could be with students.

During the meeting, Reilly also informed the board and the community he has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He said he had a surgery coming in the future and did not want people to speculate about his absence.

Maritza Navar-Lopez is a student reporting intern at WGLT. She joined the newsroom in 2021.
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