Return to School Plan

COVID-19 Data*:

Last Updated Jan 14, 2022 (status update)

  • Number of new active COVID-19 cases (student & staff): FOUR (4) since last update (1/13/22)
    • Of these newly identified cases, 3 are related to GW and 1 is related to GM
  • Current number of known active cases (students and staff): GW – 24, GM – 14 
    • Active cases are required to isolate
    • There are currently 6 known active cases across our Kindergarten classrooms 
    • There are currently 5 known active cases across our 3rd Gr classrooms 
    • There are currently 0-4 known active cases across our remaining Pre-K – 8th Gr classrooms 
  • Number of new school-related close contacts (students & staff): SIX (6) since last update (1/13/22)
    • Of these newly identified close contact, 5 are related to GW and 1 is related to GM 
  • Current number of known, school-related close contacts: GW – 21, GM – 25               
    • Close contacts are required to follow our quarantine protocol as communicated by the School Nurse (currently between 5-10 days or Test to Stay as an alternative ^)
  • Cumulative cases for the 2021-22 school year: GW – 94, GM – 63
  • Cumulative school-related close contacts for the 2021-22 school year: GW – 38, GM – 97
  • School-related close contacts testing positive during quarantine or Test To Stay period for the 2021-22 school year: GW – 0, GM – 6
    • Other, non-school related exposures cannot be ruled out
  • Number of outbreaks during the 2021-22 school year: GW – 0, GM – 0

*Local COVID-19 data and notification is updated with any change in status (e.g. a new case) or on a weekly basis (e.g. each Thursday) throughout the school year. 

^Test to Stay was incorporated as part of the board-approved Gower Return to School Plan published on July 15, 2021. The Test to Stay program is detailed in the State of Illinois and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in P-12 Schools, most recently updated on August 9, 2021, (pp. 7-8). Gower School District continues to be a leader in the on-site COVID-19 testing space and has advocated for Test to Stay allowance in DuPage County (Public Comment submitted to DuPage County Health Board, Sept. 9, 2021); Test to Stay was made available to DuPage County schools, via DCHD memo on Sept. 13, 2021 and subsequently updated on Sept. 15, 2021

Low-Risk and/or Close Contact Notification

  • When Gower School District officials are notified of a potential exposure to COVID-19, or identify a school-based positive case through our on-site testing program, our contact tracing protocol begins to determine if any students or staff meet the close contact criteria
  • Individuals meeting the close contact criteria are contacted directly by a member of our staff to initiate the quarantine protocol required by the local health department. 
  • Individuals in the same indoor environment as a known positive case (e.g. a classroom, a school bus) for a prolonged period of time but not meeting the current CDC, IDPH, and DCHD definition of a close contact are classified as having a Low-Risk Exposure and do not have to take any additional precautions or follow any additional restrictions beyond general prevention/mitigation strategies employed in our schools (e.g. masking, distancing, hand washing).
  • If you are not contacted directly by a staff member from Gower West or Gower Middle as part of our contact tracing efforts, you/your child has NOT met the close contact criteria and are NOT required to quarantine.

Additional Information

  • The DuPage County Health Department Data Dashboard can be filtered by municipality and date to have a better understanding of case counts and local community transmission
  • The Northwestern Illinois COVID Data by Zip Code webpage is an additional source of information
  • Local thresholds are being used to determine the need for a Conditional Mask Mandate as detailed in the Reopening Plan
    • Weekly Screening Testing (By Grade Level PK-5 and Grade Cluster 6-8)
    • Classroom and Grade Level Case Count
    • Community Transmission and Positivity Rate
  • NOTE: The Conditional Mask Mandate element of the Reopening Plan has been suspended until further notice per the Executive Order issued by the Governor (8/4/21) requiring all students, staff, and visitors to wear a face covering while indoors at all PK-12 schools in Illinois

Reopening Plan Materials:

  • Reopening Plan for the 2021-22 School Year – July 15, 2021
    • Our current plan is subject to change based on the ongoing assessment of local health conditions and/or changes to public health guidance. Adding or removing prevention strategies may occur as part of  our continual effort to maintain a safe learning environment for our students, staff, and community.
    • The Conditional Mask Mandate element of the Reopening Plan has been suspended until further notice per the Executive Order issued by the Governor (8/4/21) requiring all students, staff, and visitors to wear a face covering while indoors at all PK-12 schools in Illinois.
    • The timeline for sharing information is as follows:
      • July 15, 2021 – Community Update
      • July 19, 2021 – Community Webinar/Q and A with the Superintendent)
      • July 20, 2021 – Regularly Scheduled Board Meeting (The Board of approved the Reopening Plan)
      • August 4, 2021 – Executive Order issued – Mask Mandate Effective Immediately
      • August 17, 2021 – Regularly Scheduled Board Meeting at Gower Middle School Library/LRC (7:00 pm)
      • August 20, 2021 – First Day of School

On-Site Point of Care COVID-19: Testing Overview in Gower:

Since building and launching our on-site testing program in October, Gower School District has worked to help other school districts bring various forms of testing solutions to their communities. On-site testing is a part of the solution. It’s certainly not the only answer and although it may not be a fit everywhere, this process is actionable, replicable and scalable to fit any district ready to press ‘go’. Being able to quickly identify and isolate cases through point of care, diagnostic and screening testing is a huge benefit to our school community. As we know first-hand in Gower, Community Problems Require Community Solutions.

To summarize the testing options currently available in Gower:

  • All of the point-of-care and screening COVID-19 tests offered at Gower are administered free of charge. Strategic and responsible use of school funding, including additional federal funds received as a response to the global pandemic, allows our program to be offered as an added benefit to our school community. 
  • The Antigen Tests being used in Gower (AccessBio CareStart or Abbott BinaxNow) are rapid, point-of-care tests for any symptomatic staff or student (via parent consent), and/or close contacts that opt to take it. Parents that have selected a remote learning option are able to contact their respective school office and schedule a time for an antigen test to be administered. Additional antigen screening usage (symptomatic individuals and/or known close contacts) is also being carried out on a limited basis. Antigen tests are best used shortly after the onset of symptoms and do have limitations involving asymptomatic cases. However, as an extra precaution, individuals (students or staff) identified as a close contact to a school case are also able to request an antigen test as we understand the importance of being able to identify positive cases quickly and follow subsequent IDPH Exclusion Guidelines. Furthermore, the recent CDC Guidance for Expanded Screening Testing to Reduce Silent Spread of SARS-CoV-2 are clear that K-12 school settings are to be considered for increased testing from a screening perspective that may include asymptomatic individuals in areas of high community transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • The PCR SHIELD Test is being used as a part of our weekly screening program and an important layered mitigation strategy to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Download a copy of the COVID-19 Weekly Screening Consent Form and Waiver – Opt-In to participate in our Weekly Testing program.
  • The Antibody Tests being used at Gower are rapid, point-of-care tests are generally used to detect a past COVID-19 infection and not used to diagnose a current infection. They are being offered to all staff for one-time evaluation or for more regular screenings. These tests are also being offered to students (via parent consent) that have previously been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have completed their period of isolation (post-infection). 
  • COMMUNITY TESTING: Tests are available to all members of the Gower School Community (students, parents, friends/family, neighbors, former graduates, etc.) free of charge, and are being used as part of a diagnostic (symptomatic individuals) and screening (asymptomatic and/or known close contact) approach. This is a proactive and added measure that we are taking to best support and serve our school community. It does not replace, in any way, the important relationship that any of our families have with their primary healthcare provider. No appointment is necessary and our School Nurses will administer the tests directly at the vehicle window. Results from the nasal swab rapid antigen tests are available in ~15 minutes. 
  • Rapid Point-of-Care Influenza and Strep tests are also being used as part of our school-based, community health approach to on-site testing. School Nurses will contact parents should a Flu or Strep test be recommended.

Deprivatizing our practice and sharing what we have learned:

Additional Resources:


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