District 99 changes positivity rate threshold to 10%


Lauren Wilmore

Superintendent Dr. Hank Thiele announces the plan to raise the positivity rate threshold from 9% to 10%.

On Jan. 16 the school board held a special meeting to discuss whether District 99 should change it’s COVID-19 positivity rate threshold, ultimately deciding to change the threshold from 9% to 10%.

This decision means that if total COVID-19 cases in the community are below 10% then hybrid learning will resume, but if the number of cases rise above 10% then students will go to remote learning. The data is reevaluated each week to determine whether students will be learning in-person or online for the week and is to be announced every Friday before 3 p.m..

Superintendent Dr. Hank Thiele explains how the district’s previous experiences with the hybrid model leave them confident enough to move the positivity rate threshold while still guaranteeing students safety.

“We feel that based on that experience, coming into next week we can say when community transmission indicates that it’s below 10% based on our experience and correlation we have seen, your kids will be safe with us… If we can keep students safe at school it’s our responsibility to have them here,” Thiele said.

While Thiele feels the positivity rate threshold can be increased without impacting the safety of the students, Union Board Representative and DGS English teacher Valerie Hardy disagrees. Hardy highlights the limited amount of data the district has to back up the change in the positivity rate threshold.

“There is simply not enough data from the four days with fewer students in attendance than anticipated to attend in-person going forward, not to mention it was the first week under the expanded hybrid model that doubles the unique groups of students in the building each day to say that District 99 can safely operate under the initial metrics, much less under an even higher positivity rate threshold,” Hardy said.

With the amount of data being considered, Thiele speaks on the positivity rate threshold possibly changing in the future in either direction.

“We consider all the variables as they change and the evidence in front of us, then we make the next change based on what we have learned and how we move forward. [The positivity threshold] could change again, as we move forward it could go down or in any direction based on what we learn,” Thiele said.

Board Member Rick Pavinato is in support of the positivity rate threshold moving to 10%. Pavinato believes that it is important for students to be in-person learning by any means necessary.

“I am fully in favor of [moving the threshold]. Anything we can do to get the kids back into school I am for. I don’t think that this is a radical movement of the numbers, I think it better helps us get the kids back in school where they need to be,” Pavinato said.

Students will continue to follow the 2021 Hybrid Schedule in-person when the positivity rate threshold is below 10%. To check the most recent data click here.