OPRF returns to in-person learning

Freshman+participating+in+Huskie+Kick-Off+Day%2C+their+first+day+of+school

Photo by Jackie McGoey

Freshman participating in Huskie Kick-Off Day, their first day of school

The time has finally come; students are back in the building full-time. However, this reopening has not come without changes. The school has new administrators, new spaces, and new protocols and procedures.

One of the biggest changes this year at OPRF is new COVID-19 protocols, including the removal of mandatory weekly saliva testing. Instead, students are able to opt in or out.

The OPRF website says they were only able to mandate weekly testing last year because “there was a fully remote option for any student who didn’t want to test.”

According to Karin Sullivan, executive director of communications, “roughly 2000 students have opted-in to saliva testing.”

OPRF was not able to begin this for the first month of the school year because the SHIELD Illinois testing system has been providing testing for schools all over the state, and was not able to get to OPRF immediately.

Additionally, social distancing measures have been removed because the school doesn’t “have room to require maximum social distancing with all students on-site,” Superintendent Greg Johnson wrote in an August update.

The pandemic is an ever-changing situation and schools are trying to figure out how learning is supposed to look in this new world. At the very beginning of the school year, there were some concerns from students and parents alike about rules that were seemingly prohibiting students from using the restroom throughout most of the school day.

“We were implementing exactly the same practice that we had in place last year during hybrid learning, which is really no hall passes unless it’s an emergency. Unfortunately, that was interpreted to mean that we weren’t going to let kids go to the bathroom,” said Sullivan.

“So we’ve clearly stated that hall passes are permitted. It was never our intent to say that a child cannot use the bathroom if they need to. Our goal with this is really to minimize unsupervised movement in the building,” she said.

Despite some hiccups, Principal Lynda Parker feels OPRF has been successful in adapting to these challenging times.

“I think sometimes in these situations we tend to look at things from the deficits, instead of also celebrating the successes,” said Assistant Superintendent and Principal Lynda Parker. “We have over 3,000 people in masks daily. We’ve got sanitizer and cleaning supplies everywhere, our buildings and grounds staff are doing a wonderful job of making sure they’re cleaning after us.”

One of the main things the school now has to deal with is contact tracing. “If there is a positive case, our nursing staff looks at the student’s schedule (and) talks to the teachers to see who was sitting near the student,” Sullivan said. Contact tracing also applies to extracurriculars.

Unvaccinated students need to quarantine if it is determined that they were in close contact with a positive case, while vaccinated students only need to quarantine if they are symptomatic. As of Sept. 16, there have been 18 positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff since the start of the school year, and 191 people have had to quarantine due to close contact, according to OPRF’s online COVID-19 dashboard.

Sullivan says that the student vaccination rate is “much higher than we thought.” The online dashboard says that 80% of students and 89% of employees are fully vaccinated.

“It could always be higher, and we really want to encourage those who are not vaccinated to get vaccinated,” she continued. “It’s the number one public health recommendation for protecting our entire community.”

In more recent news, the state is now mandating that school employees get vaccinated or face testing twice a week.

On Sept. 9, the Board approved a Memorandum of Agreement with the Faculty Senate that has the following provision: “Bargaining unit members who are fully vaccinated or who are exempt from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine will be placed on Paid Administrative Leave in the case that they test positive for COVID-19 (as documented by an official PCR test result) for the duration of their isolation period as determined by District and public health guidance.”

As of Sept. 15, OPRF has begun allowing students with COVID-related absences to observe, but not participate in, classes from home via Zoom or Google Meet during their assigned class periods. They will not be miked.

For more information on OPRF’s COVID-19 rules and protocols, visit the FAQ on the OPRF website.

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