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KANE COUNTY – Many kids in the Tri-Cities have been back in the classroom, at least on a part-time basis, and with face-to-face instruction comes the risk of exposure to COVID-19, medical officials have said.
Apryll Elliott, assistant director for communicable disease at the Kane County Health Department, praised local school districts for their efforts in planning for what to do when COVID-19 cases emerge.
"Our schools are doing a great job of really working on social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting, and staying in close contact with us," she said. "School nurses have been doing a tremendous job with contact tracing in the building, and they alert us and give us tips of what may occurring in the community. Kids talk. The school nurses are seeing the impact, they’re seeing the kids who are symptomatic, but if there are any symptoms, they’re having to take steps to reduce exposure. Our schools have worked immensely hard to accommodate what needs to happen at this time for the best interest of the kids and staff. I truly believe they are doing what they need to do."
Elliott also explained that while some districts have had cases among students, there is no data to indicate that spread is happening in the school buildings.
"We’ve had a few cases in a particular classroom," she explained. "When looking at our outbreaks, the ones we encounter are a result of things happening outside of school. If I had two kids in the same classroom who test positive, when we’re doing contact tracing- we're looking at where they sit, if they’re considered contacts to each other, if anyone else in the home is sick. We're also looking at what else could be going on- do they play in sports? Carpool? We’re finding many of our kids who test positive are exposed outside of schools in sports, in the home, through play dates or social gatherings."
Data from the Kane County Health Department shows that cases among residents under age 19 have ebbed and flowed over the past several weeks, with more cases overall among kids in the middle and high school age group.
The percentages reported are broken down by age group for positive COVID cases among residents of all ages who reside in district boundaries. The health department did not provide number of cases by age group in each district.
Geneva School District 304
About 80% of students in the district began the year in a hybrid model, in which two groups of students attend school and learn from home on alternate days. Health dept. data shows that 10% of all cases among residents of all ages living in district boundaries during the week of Sept. 13-19 were among children under 9 years old. That percentage fell to nearly 8% the following week, crept up to almost 10% for the week ending Oct. 3, and fell again to 6.45% for the week ending Oct. 10, which is the last date information is available.
About 20% of students are in a remote-only learning model, officials said.
Geneva students ages 10 through 19 have made up a greater percentage of total cases among all residents in the earlier weeks of the school year. The highest percentage also came the week of Sept. 13-19, when that age group made up 35% of all cases. The most recent data shows that students ages 10-19 make up just 3.23% of all cases for the week ending Oct. 10.
School officials said at the Oct. 13 board meeting that all the coronavirus cases occurred from people who brought it into the schools, and that they did not originate in the schools.
Batavia School District 101
Batavia elementary school-age children, who have been attending school in a hybrid model since the year began, have made up less than 10% of all cases among residents in district boundaries over the past month. There were no positive cases among children ages 0 to 9 from Sept. 13 to Sept. 26. Children in that age group made up nearly 8% of all cases from Sept. 27- Oct. 3, and crept up to 14.71% for the week ending Oct. 10.
Middle and high school students made up around 25% of cases from Sept. 6 to Sept. 12, falling to 22% for the week ending Sept. 19 before jumping up to 27% of cases for the week ending Oct. 3. For the week ending Oct. 10, that group made up just 3% of cases. Middle and high school students began the year remotely, but will begin a hybrid model of learning on Oct. 19.
St. Charles District 303
In St. Charles, elementary school aged children made up 13% of all cases among residents in district boundaries in early September, before falling to about 7% and then rising again to 11% for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3. It fell to just 2.5% for the week ending Oct. 10.
The percentage of kids ages 10-19 made up 21% of the cases in the first week of September, but that fell to just over 11% the week ending Oct. 3, and dropping again to 7.5% for the week ending Oct. 10.
Elementary students have been in school five days a week, while middle school students have been in a hybrid model since the school year began. High school students are expected to return in a hybrid model Oct. 20.
Kaneland District 302
In Kaneland, families had the choice of a hybrid model or a fully-remote model since the school year began.
There were no children or teenagers diagnosed with the virus during the first week of September. However, children ages 0-9 went from 4.76% of cases, to 8.7% then 13.64% before dropping to zero cases for the week ending Oct. 10.
Children and teens ages 10-19 made up nearly 22% of all cases at the end of September, before dropping to 4.5% the week ending Oct. 4 and made up almost 12% for the week ending Oct. 10.
Even though cases in Kane County are spiking, schools are able to remain open with the current number of cases among students, as the situation is "manageable" for districts, Elliott said.
"If we see an increase in youth cases, that will cause us to look at the impact," she said. "Our goal is to keep our schools open safely. We want to monitor youth cases to insure they don't rise. Kids weren’t being tested when the pandemic started. But now we have more availability on who can be tested, so we’re able to collect the data we need to see how COVID is affecting school-age kids."