With eight days of in-person instruction in the books at the close of this week, the new head of Bourbonnais Elementary School District No. 53 said he is cautiously optimistic as the new year picks up steam.
BESD 53 kicked off the school year Aug. 19. This past week, the district grappled with reports of two positive cases — one on Monday, the other on Thursday. Consequently, nearly 100 additional students have been placed in isolation, based on contact tracing.
When asked about his assessment of BESD 53’s first week-and-a-half at an unprecedented time in education, Superintendent Dr. Adam Ehrman said the plans assembled before the start of the school year remain in motion.
“The first few days went really well,” Dr. Ehrman said in an interview Friday with Country Herald. “We lost some students because of single-symptom isolation, and then we had our first positive case. So it tested the system of how that was going to go.”
Dr. Ehrman on Friday also released his most recent superintendent’s message to parents and the community on the state of BESD 53’s efforts. In the writing, Dr. Ehrman delineated between the terms “isolation” and “quarantine.”
“The vast majority of individuals being ‘isolated’ (not ‘quarantined,’ as that is a function of the health department) are due to single-symptom isolation precautionary measures that the district is following,” Dr. Ehrman wrote in his message.
Dr. Ehrman in his message said the practice of isolation “is evidence of the district taking these guidelines serious and implementing the guidelines as they are written.”
Barring any major changes, the plan, Dr. Ehrman said, is for some of the isolated students to return to school after the 14-day period, meaning those impacted could resume taking seats in the classroom after Labor Day.
“In the model, once you get past day 14, some of these students or individuals that have been isolated — they will come back off of the isolation side of it, and now they can come back to in-person,” he said.
Dr. Ehrman, who early this month said a COVID-free environment is “unrealistic,” emphasized in the Friday interview the plans in place are fluid and could change at any time.
“Is this a sustainable model? Right now, knock on wood, it’s working,” Dr. Ehrman said. “We had school today, and we’re having school on Monday. And then we’ll continue to monitor it. As long as we can continue to operate in a safe manner, we are going to try.”
Looking back at the past week-and-a-half, Dr. Ehrman describes the in-person instructional days as “gold” at a time of so many challenges and unknowns.
“It’s one day at a time,” Dr. Ehrman explained. “Truly, I talked to the School Board members at one time, and I said, ‘If we can get to an opening day, if we can get to that first day — that’s better than having zero days. We’re just going to take our small victories.”