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Demand a return to normalcy for New Trier students this fall

At OpenNewTrier, we’re in full support of returning to normalcy when New Trier High School opens its doors again in August. And that means no mask mandates, no saliva testing, no tracking of students and no singling out of the unvaccinated.


While the supporting evidence for a return to normalcy is overwhelming, expect the above issues to be contentious, much like the reopening was last fall.


Just one year ago, parents were told by district officials that New Trier schools would reopen. But the hybrid reopening plan was thwarted at the last minute by the Faculty Senate, which forced the district to go full remote.


We at OpenNewTrier don’t want parents, science and common-sense overruled again.


I talked to Superintendent Paul Sally last week and here’s the case I made for a return to full normalcy for students this fall:


First, New Trier employees are protected from the virus – nearly 90 percent of New Trier teachers, staff and administrators have been vaccinated. A Wirepoints’ FOIA request to New Trier found that 89 percent of all employees – and 93 percent of faculty – were vaccinated as of June 18, 2021.


Second, our school parents and grandparents are also protected. The Illinois Department of Health (IDPH) reports that 90.2 percent of Illinois’ 65 and older population have received at least one dose of the vaccine. That, combined with the at-least-one-dose vaccination rate of 70 percent for Illinoisans 12 and older, drastically reduces last year’s concern of children infecting their parents and grandparents.


Not that it was a huge concern to begin with. Numerous studies show that children, and schools in general, are low vectors for COVID spread.


Third, the data continues to prove our children have been at miniscule risk of death from COVID. Since the inception of the pandemic, the CDC data reports just ten COVID deaths in all of Illinois for ages 0-17. That is far less than the 27 deaths from pneumonia/flu for that same age group over the same time period.


In fact, more Illinois children die from cancer, accidents or homicides than from COVID. In 2017, the latest full year of data from IDPH, 57 children died from cancer, 73 from suicide, 105 from assault, and 143 from accidents. As tragic as those ten COVID deaths were, accidents from normal activities should give parents more concern than COVID.


Finally, New Trier is among the most vaccinated areas of Cook County, according to a recent WBEZ analysis. That’s important since the CDC has just come out with new guidelines, which the IDPH has adopted, that “leaves room for schools to make decisions based on the risk of COVID-19 transmission in their communities…In places with high vaccination rates and low case counts, administrators could consider removing more restrictions.”


While the CDC guidance recommends unvaccinated students wear masks and calls for continued forms of social distancing, the New Trier area metrics provide more than enough justification for officials to remove “more restrictions.”


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The bottom line is that those most at risk from COVID – those 60 and older – are now overwhelmingly protected from the virus. And after seven months of vaccine availability, nearly every adult who wants and can be inoculated has been.


A vast majority of adults are now resuming their normal lives, as can be seen in stores, restaurants, etc. It’s unfair to ask our children, vaccinated or not, to wear masks for hours when venues across the state have no mask mandates.


Youth, who were never at real risk, must be allowed to return to their normal lives, especially considering the mental and emotional strain they’ve been under the past year.


For sure, many New Trier board members and administrators want to restore normalcy at the district, but they’ll be under enormous pressure from the various employee associations that want to continue restrictions.


Let the school board and Dr. Sally know that you, too, want restrictions lifted off your kids. Write them at the email addresses listed below.


The school board also meets today, July 12, at 6:30 pm, Northfield Campus, N C234 Board Multi Purpose Room, details here. If you can join the meeting and speak directly to the board, we encourage you to do so.


- Ted Dabrowski

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to opennewtrier@gmail.com



Email addresses of the Superintendent and the Board: