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Local health officials concerned about return to school because of rising COVID cases

In the next few weeks, students in the Illinois Quad Cities go back to school. Health officials are concerned as many students are not vaccinated against COVID-19.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — In the next few weeks, students in the Illinois Quad Cities are going back to school. 

That return to learning in school leaves parents and students with questions about what the 2021-2022 school year will look like.

Students in the Rock Island-Milan School District start classes on Monday, August 2. United Township High School has its first day on August 4. And, the Moline-Coal Valley School District starts back up on August 17.

The Illinois Department of Public Health provided these guidelines for schools in the state to prepare for the school year.

The Rock Island County Health Department is recommending schools in the county require masks for all students at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year.

"We're recommending that all school districts have their kids wear masks, have everyone in the school wear masks," said Janet Hill, the chief operating officer at the Rock Island County Health Department. Hill said that recommendation includes people who are fully vaccinated.

Hill also said the health department is recommending students be spread out in the classroom to maintain social distancing, as well as maintain increased cleaning procedures.

"They may get a little bit less sick than someone who has some underlying health conditions and is older but as we've seen throughout this, it isn't really just about the patient, it's about who the patient comes in contact with and then the broader community," said Hill.

Hill said the health department is concerned about a new surge of COVID-19 cases once the school year starts because of the Delta variant.

Hill also said the health department is concerned about a possible new surge as weekly new COVID-19 case counts in the county continue to rise. 

The Delta variant is spreading rapidly in unvaccinated populations. Don’t let Delta & other variants stop our progress...

Posted by Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) on Sunday, July 25, 2021

On July 19, 2021, the Rock Island County Health Department reported 28 new cases of the virus during the week of July 12. On Friday, July 23, Hill said the health department had already seen 39 new cases. Data for the week of July 19 will be released by the health department on Monday.

The district superintendent announced that Rock Island-Milan Schools would start with all elementary schools with students under 12 being required to wear masks. He said there would be a mask-recommended policy in the junior high schools and high schools. 

The plan for the Rock Island District includes three feet of spacing between students and contact tracing if any student or staff member tests positive, according to the spokesperson.

The United Township School District has similar plans, which you can read about here.

The Moline-Coal Valley School District is still working on its plan for the upcoming school year with updating mask and distancing policies, according to a district spokesperson.

All three school districts -- Rock Island-Milan, United Township and Moline-Coal Valley -- plan to offer in-person learning for the full school day each week.

Each school district has plans in place to allow for remote learning, but that option is only for students who qualify for that program.

The Rock Island County Health Department is working with school districts to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to students at school registration times if those students are eligible for the vaccine, according to Hill.

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