Positive cases of COVID-19 continue to rise within the New Trier high school community.
The latest district data shows 44 students and staff combined are currently positive for COVID, an increase of 17 cases – or 63% – in seven days and 36 cases – or 450% – since December 1.
While notifying the District Education Council on Monday, December 13 of the increase, Superintendent Dr Paul Sally said the district did not plan to learn of changes, but the COVID outbreak led to additional mitigation measures.
After the district’s winter vacation, which runs from Dec. 18 to Jan. 2, New Trier students will be required to take a COVID-19 test the week of Jan. 3, Sally said, adding that the tests will have held throughout the week and will be conducted during the Kinetic Student Wellbeing Period.
Sally said families in the district can opt out of the test and continue to participate in on-site learning.
Additionally, all students who participate in winter sports and activities, such as intramural, are required to undergo weekly COVID tests, to which there is no withdrawal, Sally said.
Although officials have apparently found no direct link to the transmission of the virus on campus, they have noticed clusters of cases sharing a link, such as athletics or intramural. Because of this, Sally said, the district has postponed the popular Night League (basketball) and Spike League (volleyball) intramural programs until after the winter break.
“Our goal is to keep the learning in person and keep the activities going throughout the year,” he said. “The students are so grateful to participate in all the activities. “
Board member Kimberly Alcantara asked administrators if performing arts students were involved in post-break testing. Sally said no, because the district has not identified a COVID pattern among theater groups and clubs. He thinks it’s because in these activities students have more opportunities to stretch out than in close contact athletics, such as basketball.
Sally also announced – now that the FDA has approved a booster dose for people 16 and older – the district will host COVID vaccine booster clinics for students and staff in January. The district would also make efforts to encourage students and staff to receive a booster shot outside of school.
Associate Superintendent Chris Johnson has estimated 1,000 locations will be open for the January recall clinic.
According to district data, 93 percent of New Trèves’ staff and 92 percent of its students are fully immunized. Vaccinated people do not have to self-quarantine if they are in close contact. Currently, only eight individuals from New Trèves are in quarantine.
The peak of cases in New Trèves aligns with increased community transmission of the virus which has resulted in a seasonal increase in the rate of new cases (297.3 per 100,000 people – December 13) and positivity (3.8% – December 13) in New Trèves Canton.
In an effort to mitigate the current and future spread of COVID, Sally told council the district needs to step up efforts to uphold the indoor mask mandate.
“We want to urge students to wear masks properly and to comply when a teacher asks (to do so),” he said. “The level of compliance is the lowest of the whole year. We all understand this and are all tired of all the rules we have to follow to keep the community healthy. We ask for an extra effort especially with a few days before the break.
Board member Jean Hahn thanked the teachers and other district staff who handled all moving parts, including the application of masks, this school year.
“I want to recognize the tremendous efforts of all the staff at New Trier, but especially the teachers and support staff who work alongside the students every day,” she said. “… They did all of this with the usual professionalism and compassion … which makes New Trier the institution we value.”
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