D97, CPS deal with closures


A District 97 communication announces an “adaptive pause” on in-person learning.

With the emergence of the Omicron variant, local schools are taking precautions and pausing in-person learning to ensure the safety of their students and staff.

On Jan. 13, all schools in District 97 began their “adaptive pause” and were remote for two school days. Amanda Siegfried, senior director of communications for District 97, says the pause was “short term” so they can continue to provide in-person learning safely. It was caused by an overall lack of staffing, specifically the lack of staff able to provide the necessary contact tracing required to stay in-person.

It was not a reflection of the future of schools. “We know that remote learning does not work,” says Siegfried.

OPRF Physical Education teacher Linda Carlson is one of many staff and faculty members with children or family members in District 97. She has had to sacrifice her own sick days to stay at home and care for her children during the adaptive pause.

“If (employees) are out because they themselves are ill or they’re in quarantine or…their child is home in quarantine… (they) take sick days,” Sullivan says.

“I wish that that wasn’t so,” Carlson says.

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) resumed in-person learning Jan. 12 after a Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU) work stoppage over safety concerns. An agreement was made between CPS and the union, which included new metrics for a switch to remote learning, more testing, and extra PPE funding.

For many students, the threat of going remote again is a frightening one, especially since they have finally adjusted to being in-person.

“Students really benefit from being on site…that’s our goal and that’s our commitment,” says Siegfried.

Sullivan says staying in person is “best for students’ mental health and students’ academic learning,” and OPRF is committed to staying in person as long as it is safe and feasible. She says the chance of shutting down, as of right now, is “fairly unlikely.”

District 97 has received some criticism for their pause, mostly from frustrated parents wishing to see their children attending in-person school.

Siegfried says she hopes parents understand the district has the “best interests of our students in mind.”

“We’re trying our best to get through (the pandemic) and are working very hard to keep our schools as safe as possible,” she says.

Though the pause was not convenient or expected, Carlson says “being in the pandemic now for a couple years, you just learn to … go with the flow and accept it.”