District 203 closes school and cancels all activities through April 6 and will implement e-learning Tuesday, March 17


Photo by Tessa Devine

In an unprecedented response to a growing pandemic, District 203 cancelled school and all sports and activities from March 14 through April 6, and plans to implement e-learning for students beginning Tuesday, March 17.

Following the announcement, the halls rang with surprised laughter and cheers. Senior Sedona Swanson said that, like many seniors, she feels the final year she envisioned has been stolen away.

“Getting those [senior plans] thrown out the window because of this virus was something I didn’t expect to happen, and I never thought those things would be taken away,” Swanson said.

In a statement from District 203, it was reiterated that there are no-known cases of COVID-19 in Naperville.

“Thank you for your patience while we work to meet the needs of our students. As you have seen already, this is a rapidly developing situation. As new information becomes available, we will continue to communicate and adjust our plans as necessary,”  the unsigned statement reads.

Art teacher Janell Matas wasn’t sure what e-learning would look like for studio classes, and started preparing her students for the possibility of a closure this week by giving them the opportunity to take home art materials.

“I feel a little bit blindsided; I think it would’ve been nice if we would’ve been told sooner that e-learning was or possibility or wasn’t a possibility so we could start thinking about it,” Matas said.

Thursday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that the state will bar all public events with more than 1,000 people for the next 30 days, as well as cancelling all major sporting events until May 1. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot also urged the postponement of events with anticipated turnouts higher than 250 people until May 1. 

Now officially a pandemic, the coronavirus has reached a new height, with over 132,000 cases of the virus and 5,000 deaths confirmed worldwide. As of Friday, state officials reported 32 cases of COVID-19. There are no confirmed cases in Naperville. 

Other school districts have implemented similar plans, including Indian Prairie School District 204 and Lisle School District 2020. IPSD has cancelled all in-person classes until April 6 and e-learning will begin on March 18. Prior to District 203’s school closure, North Central College and College of DuPage moved to online classes, and Loyola Academy and Hinsdale Central and South high schools shut down for two days and one day this week, respectively, following potential cases, and Adlai E. Stevenson closed their doors until the end of spring break.

While NNHS students lived through the 2002 SARS outbreak, 2009 swine flu and 2014 Ebola epidemics from afar, COVID-19 is a monster of its own. Experts have compared this pandemic to the 1918 Spanish flu in that both spread rapidly through person-to-person contamination. While the Spanish flu killed nearly 50 million, The New York Times today published a worst-case scenario modeling of the coronavirus by The Centers of Disease Control, which suggested as many as 200,000 to 1.7 million people could die from the disease.

What started as an outbreak in the Hubei Province of China has spread to nearly every nook and cranny of the world, uprooting life as we know it: the NBA, MLB, NHL and NCAA all delayed or suspended their seasons, the stock market had its worst day since 1987 with the Dow closing down 10% on Thursday, and Chicagoland area events including Naperville and Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day parades have been cancelled. 

Thursday, the Illinois High School Association cancelled their remaining winter state tournaments over the  coronarius concerns — boys basketball, Scholastic Bowl, Drama & Group Interpretation, Music Organization, Debate and Journalism.

Some students with family abroad have been directly affected by COVID-19. NNHS senior Brian Zheng currently has family quarantined in Wuhan, and expressed fears for his grandparents, who are at a greater risk of infection due to their age. However, he said he’s fascinated by how people respond to COVID-19 from a social, political and economic standpoint.

“My family was directly impacted, so it’s very real and direct in that sense,” Zheng said. “I thought it [quarantine] was a really interesting exercise in public policy and how government works, but obviously amidst that drop of a personal connection.”

Zheng said that the whole experience feels surreal, and that he didn’t expect the disease to gain this much traction.

“On my end there is very little personal anxiety or fear; I’m more interested in seeing how society reacts, and that’s kind of how I’ve rationalized it,” said Zheng.

Amid a growing push for social distancing, which refers to increasing the physical space between people to prevent the spread of germs, some students fear that the cancellation of quintessential high school events like prom and graduation will follow the postponement of Airband and the cancelation of the Spring Dance. In an interview Thursday, Naperville North Principal Stephanie Posey said that District 203 is monitoring the Dupage County Health Department’s recommendations, and that event decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis and can change quickly.

“This is obviously a very unfortunate and unique situation, especially for our senior class. But they can rest assured that within the parameters that are placed upon us that we will provide an exceptional experience for [these] seniors just like we do every other senior,” Posey stated. 

Despite Trump’s misleading  statement that “anybody that wants a test can get a test,” COVID-19 tests are in higher demand than they are being supplied, with roughly 11,000 Americans tested since mid-January, putting the U.S. far behind countries like South Korea, where roughly 10,000 tests are being administered per day. Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough and shortness of breath, and often do not appear for five to fourteen days. The CDC recommends washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after using the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose or sneezing, in addition to avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Any COVID-19-related updates will be announced via the District website homepage, the District’s Talk 203 notification system, and via social media on Twitter and Facebook. 

“I think students should be vigilant about following best practice and keeping themselves abreast of the latest news and the directions that will keep them as safe as possible, but I think if everyone keeps a calm, cool, collected head, that we will get through this together,” Posey said.