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Oswego School District 308 crafting COVID-19 safety plan ahead of fall school year

Oswego School District 308 Superintendent John Sparlin told parents in a letter this week that officials are crafting a COVID-19 safety plan as students, faculty and staff prepare to return to the classroom this upcoming school year.

In a July 28 letter sent to families and staff, Sparlin said that the district is reviewing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidance on COVID-19 mitigation efforts. The CDC guidance calls for all students and staff in K-12 schools to wear masks indoors and on buses, regardless of their vaccination status.

The guidance was announced July 27, to prevent further spread of the highly transmissible COVID-19 delta variant. The federal health agency now recommends “universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status,” according to its website.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has announced that it is adopting the CDC’s new guidance. The IDPH issued a statement on Monday warning school districts that “in addition to the health and safety reasons for following the CDC’s guidance, school districts that decide not to follow the CDC’s guidance should consult with their insurers regarding risk assumption and liability coverage. Insurers may be unwilling to cover liabilities created as a result of failure to adhere to public health guidance.”

Currently, OSD 308 does not require masks for students and staff – except on school transportation. The Board of Education on July 12 voted 6-0 in support of the decision, with one member abstaining.

The district does not mandate that anyone wear masks in school, according to the OSD 308 website.

“Additionally, the district does not have a policy requiring students and staff to disclose their COVID-19 vaccination status,” the policy states. “The district will not tolerate the bullying of individuals for wearing or not wearing a mask.”

The website also states that the district’s directive, “is subject to change based upon changes in applicable factors including an increase in COVID-19 rates or revised public health guidance.”

“Adequate and appropriate”

In his letter to parents, Sparlin told parents that district officials will be reviewing CDC and Illinois Department of Public Health guidance in detail and will meet with the local health department.

“We need to consider all the recommendations made by local, state, and federal health officials,” Sparlin wrote. “It is imperative that our plans are both feasible and include appropriate measures that respond to the situation in our schools and community.”

Guidance from the CDC, Sparlin continued, acknowledges that schools should use a “layered approach to mitigation measures,” that can be adjusted as needed according to local COVID-19 trends.

While district administrators understand the “desire” for the complete and detailed safety plan, “it’s important that our plan be as close to final as possible before it’s widely shared,” Sparlin wrote.

“We hope that by next week we have enough clarity from our local health department, IDPH, ISBE and CDC to be certain our plan is adequate and appropriate.”

More information on the district’s safety plan is expected to be released the week of Aug. 2. A presentation on the district’s safety plan for the 2021-2022 school year is scheduled for the Board of Education’s Aug. 9 meeting. The new school year will begin on Aug. 18.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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