WOODSTOCK, Ill. – The McHenry County Department of Health (MCDH) has launched a School Metrics Dashboard on its website to assist school districts and increase transparency and raise public awareness.
In partnership with McHenry County Administration, the County’s Emergency Management Agency and superintendents representing the majority of public schools in McHenry County, MCDH has been working for several weeks on developing guidance, which includes metrics and criteria to evaluate transitions between virtual, hybrid or in-person learning models.
Public Health Administrator Melissa Adamson said, “The dashboard is a resource to help school officials make data-informed decisions about their schools learning model during the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes interim school guidance, including a full decision matrix, the latest COVID-19 data for the county and guidelines for schools and students.”
Adamson added, “I want to express my appreciation to the superintendents for their contributions and partnership. I hope this can be used as a model for intergovernmental collaboration across the state and country.”
The key metrics to guide schools’ decision-making include: COVID-19 incidence rate, the county’s test positivity, and whether COVID-19-like illness hospital admissions and new cases are increasing or decreasing. The decisions on what learning model to implement continues to reside with each school district. In their respective decision-making, each superintendent will consider the metrics, along with other factors, including enrollment and class size, facilities and operations and capacity limitations determined by the State of Illinois.
Self-reporting is critical to a school’s ability to stay open as an outbreak could close an entire school. The public is also urged to continue to follow public health measures to prevent the community spread of COVID-19, including using a face covering, practicing social distancing and washing hands.
McHenry County’s public health experts emphasize that there is currently no risk-free scenario or learning model that eliminates transmission. Any plan that includes in-person learning requires cooperation among staff, students and parents who are expected to report symptoms (e.g., cough, fever, diarrhea, shortness of breath, etc.) and positive test results. If any COVID-19 symptoms are present, students and staff will be denied entry and/or sent home immediately.
Upon notification of a positive case the school in cooperation with MCDH will conduct contact tracing. It is important for parents to answer calls from their student’s school and from MCDH contact tracers. MCDH contact tracing number will appear on your phone as 312-777-1999, “COVID CONTACT.” The school and MCDH will provide guidance regarding isolation and quarantine.
MCDH recommends schools consider first transitioning to hybrid learning from virtual learning. Students in some McHenry County school districts have already returned to school and others have announced plans to return to a hybrid model in the coming weeks.
Johnsburg School District 12 Superintendent Dan Johnson said, “We know that in-person learning is critical to a child’s health and wellbeing so we are thrilled to have some of our students back in the classroom already under a hybrid learning model. We look forward to our older students gradually returning over the next few weeks. We are taking every possible measure to ensure a safe learning environment for our students and staff.”