Huntley Community School District 158 has reported 16 cases of COVID-19 in the past two weeks, six of which were identified among students and staff at Huntley High School as of Wednesday.
Three staff members and three students of Huntley High School have tested positive for the virus in the past 14 days, but the cases are not connected, district spokesman Dan Armstrong said Tuesday.
"I can see where folks would say 'oh [six] cases,' but that could be a case that came in 14 days ago and then a case that came in three days after that and then five days after that so it could always just be cases that are totally disconnected and have no bearing on each other at all," Armstrong said.
Reporting some number of cases in a district of over 9,000 students is an unfortunate reality of the current situation, he said. It is an outbreak of COVID-19, or the spread of infection, that the district is working to prevent.
Crystal Lake-based Community High School District 155 reported 14 cases of COVID-19 for the week of Oct. 11 to 17 with a population of just over 5,700 students, according to the district website. The health department had not classified the cases there as an outbreak either as of Tuesday.
The McHenry County Department of Health defines an outbreak in a school as "two confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections occurring within 14 calendar days of each other in individuals in the same classroom, team, or club," that are then "epidemiologically linked," according to the county's dashboard for school metrics.
By this definition, Armstrong said the cases at Huntley High School are not an outbreak. As of Tuesday afternoon, he said he was not aware of any ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19 in any of the district's schools.
The district currently is also reporting two cases of COVID-19 at Conley Elementary School, one student and one staff, and three cases at Martin Elementary School, two staff and one student, according to the dashboard.
Huntley High School students are still learning remotely with a transition to hybrid learning set for Nov. 2 for district students grades 6 to 12, according to the district's hybrid learning plan. This means that infections related to school activities can only occur through involvement in sports or other extracurricular activities.
Given that the new cases are not connected, it is likely that the infections occurred unrelated to school activities but were still reported to the district as requested, Armstrong said.
Either way, the current case count will not require the district's elementary school students to move back to remote learning and will not delay the Nov. 2 start date for grades 6 to 12, he said.
Parents will always be notified if their student has come into close contact with another student or staff member who has tested positive for COVID-19, he added.
"In absence of that additional notification that would be coming in one form or another, just a number displayed on this dashboard doesn't really indicate a heightened need for concern on [their] part," Armstrong said.
Armstrong confirmed that the six new cases reported Wednesday are not connected to the outbreak among Huntley High School's freshman football and freshman boys basketball teams that was reported Oct. 8.