GENOA – The Genoa-Kingston school board on Tuesday decided to delay a decision on whether to go remote based on a recommendation from the county health department, citing a lack of information.
The DeKalb County Health Department recommended an adaptive pause on in-person learning and switching to remote full-time beginning Nov. 30 until at least Jan. 19, amid soaring positivity rates.
According to numbers based on the latest data released by the Illinois Department of Public Health, Kingston had the highest seven-day rolling positivity rate in the county at 26.7%, while Genoa was fourth at 23.4%.
But board member David Cleveland said the ZIP code-based numbers weren't local enough and wanted numbers for the district. Genoa-Kingston has not been releasing the number of tests taken by staff or students – no local school has been relating that information – but they did release that there was one case last week, coming in the same week the district returned from remote learning.
Superintendent Brent O'Daniell said there have also been 40 quarantines in two days this week after 62 all of last week.
"I don't care what they do in Rockford," Cleveland said. "I don't care what they do in DeKalb. I care about Genoa-Kingston. My job is Genoa-Kingston."
The board members came up with a list of information they wanted from O'Daniell ahead of a newly scheduled meeting at 7:30 a.m. Friday.
Cleveland said he would email O'Daniell what specific information he was looking for but stressed he wanted district level info.
Another sticking point for the board was liability. O'Daniell said that since the district, if it remains open, would be going against the advice of the DeKalb County Health Department, they would be waiving what's known as tort immunity, which protects people acting within the scope of their job. That person has tort immunity unless acting in a wilfully wonton manner, O'Daniell explained, adding that the district's lawyer said going against county advice was 'willful and wonton.'
O'Daniell did point out that the school's insurance said it would already not cover any COVID related claims, and Cleveland said since they're not covered anyway, they should be able to stay open.
Cleveland also said that they were not disobeying state or federal guidelines, so he asked if that gives them some protection. That is another thing O'Daniell said he'd look into ahead of Friday's meeting.
Another big sticking point, according to multiple board members, was what they called contradictory language in the letter from the county health department. The closing paragraph, they said, indicated that the recommendation was to close but they would support them in any decision. Jake Wesner was the first to call this contradictory and said he needed clarification before he could support going remote.
Board members also requested teacher survey information, as well as a look at how remote learning will work.
The only board member to definitely speak in favor of following the recommendation was president Kristen Andrews.
"I'm reluctantly supportive of following the recommendation," Andrews said. "No matter the numbers, country, region, state, county, or Genoa-Kingston ZIP codes, the numbers are up. And this is one part of a larger mitigation to get those numbers down."