River Forest District 90 reported two more COVID-19 outbreaks at Roosevelt Middle School earlier this week, bringing the total number of confirmed outbreak cases to five in the last three weeks. District officials said an outbreak may have also occurred at one of its elementary schools, but that has yet to be determined by the Cook County Department of Public Health.
State and county public health officials defined outbreaks as multiple cases impacting at least 10 percent of teachers, staff and students within a core group, or individuals “who were together during an exposure period.” Three COVID cases within a “specified core group” also constitute an outbreak, health officials said.
District 90 spokeswoman Dawne Simmons said the recent outbreaks at Roosevelt and Lincoln fit the latter part of that definition and are deemed school-based transmissions.
She told Wednesday Journal that D90 joins many schools in the area and across the nation that returned to in-person learning after winter break and saw an increase in COVID-19 cases because of the omicron variant.
As of Jan. 20, upon returning from a two-week holiday break early this month, district officials reported 154 new cases of COVID-19 among staff and students across its three schools – Roosevelt, Lincoln and Willard Elementary.
“Before we got back from winter break, we went 13 months without any [COVID cases that had] school-based transmissions,” she said. “Now, we did have cases of COVID, of course, but none of them were traced to school-based transmission.”
In a Jan. 19 email, Superintendent Ed Condon told school employees and families that the two new outbreaks at Roosevelt stemmed from two sixth-grade classrooms while the outbreak at Lincoln came from a third-grade classroom. Other outbreaks at Roosevelt occurred in another sixth-grade classroom, as well as seventh-grade and eighth-grade classrooms, Simmons said.
The district’s nursing team has notified the families of the students who were in those “impacted” classrooms and continued to expand their outbreak testing, Condon wrote in the email.
Simmons told the Journal that D90 continues to maintain its “rigid” safety mitigations, which now include supplying staff and students with surgical-type face masks and does not plan on switching back to remote learning. In an email, Condon reminded faculty, staff and families that they should monitor their health and stay at home if they develop any symptoms, as well as reach out to their health provider for COVID-19 testing if needed.
District 90 has recently partnered with the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to host another vaccination clinic on Jan. 25 at Roosevelt Middle School, 7560 Oak Ave. in River Forest. The clinic will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. and is open to district students, families and community members. Appointments can be made online here.
First and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine – and booster shots – will be offered at the clinic. Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines will also be made available for eligible recipients. District 90 will host a follow-up clinic on Feb. 15 at Roosevelt from 4 to 8 p.m.
“District 90 believes that the best place for students is in-person, and so we are working extremely hard to make sure that we are able to keep our schools open for in-person instruction,” Simmons said, adding the district is grateful for its faculty and other employees who work together day in and day out.