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Students, Administrators And Health Officials Grapple With COVID Outbreak In Highland Park

CHICAGO (CBS) -- More than 100 students in one north suburban high school district are in quarantine right now.

Administrators there now reporting close to two dozen positive cases of COVID-19. CBS 2's Steven Graves reports from Highland Park where the district considers loosening restrictions.

There could be even more students in classrooms after new state guidance, as the administration believes those positive cases were not contracted on campus.

Educating high schoolers presents its own challenges.

"We can control the environment in the school, but we can't control what happens outside of the school," said Karen Warner, Director of Communications at District 113.

Township High School District 113 learned that lesson over the past weeks of hybrid learning. Eighteen students learning in person at Deerfield High tested positive for COVID-19, and there were four at Highland Park High.

The 117 students who might have some contact with them are quarantining. Lake County health officials believe all cases were contracted outside of the classroom.

"We have many layers of mitigation and what people need to do is follow those same kinds of mitigations outside of school," Warner said.

But Warner sees the alert to cases as a positive side effect of their mandatory biweekly saliva testing.

"It's working, so we're proud of that and looking forward to having more students on campus," Warner said.

More students in classrooms, now that the state has cut social distancing requirements from six feet to three. It comes as positive cases are popping in other high school districts in the area.

"I believe that if students were allowed back in class, that our numbers could be lower."

That's word from pediatric infectious disease Doctor Daniel Johnson, who said studies show taking the home learning out of the equation might be better.

"Bringing them together in school settings, where the rules are followed and enforced, is safer than many home settings during the day because parents have to work," Johnson said.

It's important to note  that it's unclear where the students are contracting the virus. The health department did not disclose that information.

But the district will have a meeting next week with the school board to discuss the move to more classroom capacity.


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