The overwhelming majority of teachers and staff at area schools have received their COVID-19 vaccines, but there are a few holdouts who will have to submit to weekly testing beginning next week under the terms of an executive order issued by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois State Board of Education.
At Riverside-Brookfield High School, 10 staff members are not yet fully vaccinated, with eight of those people having informed the school administration that they do not currently intend to get vaccinated, according to Assistant Superintendent Kristin Smetana.
Citing privacy concerns Smetana declined to say how many of those eight staff members are teachers. The unvaccinated RBHS staff members will be tested weekly for COVID-19 at the school’s health office.
Six teachers in Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95 are unvaccinated, District 95 Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski said at the Sept. 9 school board meeting. Kuzniewski said that he had to follow up with four to six other staff members. Unvaccinated staff members will likely be required to get their weekly COVID-19 tests on their own.
In Riverside Elementary School District 96 all classroom teachers and 94 percent of all staff have been vaccinated, said Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye. Test procedures for unvaccinated staff have not yet been decided upon, Ryan-Toye said. Pritzker’s order takes effect on Sept. 19.
Ryan-Toye welcomed the vaccine or testing mandate.
“A mandate to me is very, very encouraging,” Ryan-Toye said. “Hopefully it will encourage just the few remaining employees that are not vaccinated to move forward with it.”
More than 90 percent of staff in Komarek School District 94 in North Riverside are vaccinated, said Superintendent Todd Fitzgerald. One student has tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the school year.
The number of unvaccinated staff at Lincoln School, Congress Park School and Lyons Township High School was not immediately available.
Brook Park School in LaGrange Park appears to have had the most COVID-19 cases among students so far this school year. According to District 95’s online COVID-19 dashboard last updated on Sept. 10, five Brook Park and two S.E. Gross Middle School stuydents have tested positive so far, with three of the positive cases coming in the week of Sept. 6.
Twenty Brook Park students and eight S.E. Gross students have been forced to quarantine for various amounts of time.
“We’re kind of where we expected we would be,” Kuzniewski said.
Most of the positive cases at Brook Park appear to be among children who have had close contact with a parent who tested positive, Kuzniewski said.
Two students in District 96, one at Ames School and one at Blythe Park School, have tested positive for COVID-19 since school began last month. Three students at Blythe Park have had to quarantine.
Fourteen students and one staff member at Lyons Township High School have tested positive since the school year began on Aug. 19.
At Riverside-Brookfield High School, seven students have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of classes in August and 15 have had to quarantine. Only unvaccinated students are required to quarantine if they are considered close contacts.
Weekly cases plateau
Throughout Brookfield, Riverside and North Riverside overall, the number of new COVID-19 cases has seemingly plateaued after seeing a spike in new cases early August.
In Brookfield the number of new cases has been anywhere between 20 and 30 for the past six weeks, with one death from COVID-19 reported during that time period, on Aug. 9.
Since the pandemic began in March 2020, there have been 14 Brookfield residents who have died from COVID-19, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.
In Riverside, where 81.3 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the Cook County Department of Public Health, there have been 24 new COVID-19 cases reported over the past two weeks (ending on the morning of Sept. 14), a slight increase over the previous two-week period, when there were 19.
There has not been a death from COVID-19 reported in Riverside since Dec. 17, 2020. The Landmark has identified a total of three Riverside residents who have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
North Riverside has not seen much of a change in the rate of new cases during the most recent two-week period, with 21 reported since Aug. 31. During the prior two-week period the village reported 19 new cases.
The Landmark has identified four North Riverside residents who have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, with the most recent fatality reported on Jan. 11.
While Riverside’s vaccination rate is far above the state’s rate, according to county officials, the percentage of fully vaccinated eligible individuals (age 12+) in Brookfield remains slightly lower than the state as a whole, while North Riverside is far below the state as a whole.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, 60.9 percent of the state’s 12+ population has been fully vaccinated. The Cook County Department of Public Health is reporting that 58.9 percent of Brookfield residents are fully vaccinated and just 39.4 percent of North Riverside residents are fully vaccinated.
Bob Uphues contributed to this report.