Students will be allowed to return to K-12 schools for in-person instruction in August, state officials said Tuesday as they released guidelines for how that will work.
Most students haven’t been in their schools since mid-March, when Gov. JB Pritzker closed buildings statewide because of the pandemic. Students finished the spring online, but parents, teachers and employers were waiting on what the plan would be for August.
The State Board of Education and Illinois Department of Public Health issued guidance Tuesday for K-12 schools. Districts will have some latitude on “how to implement the guidance,” but in-person instruction is “strongly encouraged” for all students, especially those under age 13.
“Nothing compares to face-to-face interactions between students and their teachers,” State Superintendent of Education Carmen I. Ayala said in a statement. “The dedication of Illinoisans to social distancing over the past several months has allowed us to plan to bring students back to classrooms this fall while keeping health and safety our No. 1 priority."
ISBE and @IDPH released guidance today to support all public and nonpublic schools in safely starting the 2020-21 school year in-person in Phase 4. Schools will use the requirements to develop local reopening plans. View the guidance at https://t.co/ietnBMJRD0.
— Illinois State Board of Education (@ISBEnews) June 23, 2020
The state will also provide a cloth face mask to all students and school staff.
The state’s requirements also include:
- Schools must conduct symptom screenings and temperature checks OR require that individuals self-certify that they are free of symptoms before entering school buildings.
- Prohibit more than 50 individuals from gathering in one space.
- Increase schoolwide cleaning and disinfection.
The state said the 63-page guidelines were developed “in collaboration with 56 educators, superintendents, social workers, nurses, and other stakeholders from across the state.”
The unions representing Illinois teachers said the guidelines "don’t address some of the most pressing concerns that make it difficult to social distance appropriately and monitor the health and well-being of all our education support staff, teachers and students."
"We are especially concerned about the lack of personal protective equipment and providing a safe learning environment," the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) President Dan Montgomery and Illinois Education Association (IEA) President Kathi Griffin said in a joint statement Tuesday.
The unions said they want to work with ISBE to update the guidelines, especially issues related to a "lack of critical staff and resources such as school nurses and PPE."