Illinois schools will reopen this fall, but with major changes

Illinois schools will be allowed to reopen this fall for in-person learning, Gov. JB Pritzker announced last Tuesday.

While schools have been given the go ahead to reopen their doors for the upcoming academic year, that does not mean things will be returning to normal. There is a lot of safety guidelines all 852 districts in the state will be required to implement.

Perhaps the biggest change is the requirement of face masks by every one of the 2 million students in Illinois.

“In Illinois, a child’s ability to afford or acquire a face covering should have no impact on whether they can go to school, and it won’t,” Pritzker said.

The state will provide 2.5 million masks to all public-school students. Other reopening requirements include symptom and temperature screenings for COVID-19, gatherings of fewer than 50 people in one space, and social distancing whenever possible.

Each district has been asked to submit a backup remote learning plan to the Illinois State Board of Education, as well.

“As much as possible, we have tried to provide common and clear requirements, while preserving flexibility for each school and district,” State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen Ayala said.

Arthur School District Superintendent Shannon Cheek released the following statement: “Right now, we don’t have all the answers to those questions as this document was released to school districts at the same time it was released to the public.  However, I want to assure you that we have already begun planning and strategizing about how we can provide opportunities for our students to safely return to school in the fall.

He stated, “We formed a Remote Learning team in May that includes over 20 teachers representing all buildings and spans many grade levels that have met two times already and met again last Thursday. I also want to mention that the majority of our teaching staff have been voluntarily completing several online training modules that were prepared and provided to them to ensure that they will be utilizing best practices if we have to incorporate remote learning into our transition plan.”

GUIDANCE FOR K-12 SCHOOLS

Each school district will determine how to implement the guidance based on its unique student enrollment, school facilities, staffing, transportation, and technological capacity. ISBE strongly encourages schools and districts to provide in-person instruction for all students, especially those under age 13, to ensure children have rich instructional environments.

The IDPH requirements for schools to reopen in Phase 4 are:

•Require use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including face coverings;

•Prohibit more than 50 individuals from gathering in one space;

•Require social distancing whenever possible;

•Conduct symptom screenings and temperature checks or require self-certification that individuals entering school buildings are symptom free; and

•Increase schoolwide cleaning and disinfection.

GUIDANCE FOR HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS

When students return to campus this fall, they can expect new prevention measures from colleges and universities including social distancing, physical spacing, hand sanitizing stations, face covering requirements, and regular monitoring of students for symptoms of COVID-19.

Schools are developing policies around traffic flow, cleaning of public spaces, and staggered schedules for the use of laboratories, auditoriums and other group facilities. Small-group sessions and meetings with professors will also have to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Nevertheless, colleges expect dormitories, cafeterias, libraries, bookstores, and other amenities of college life to be available to students, subject to the approved guidelines.

COMMUNITY COLLEGES

Guidance for Illinois’ community colleges takes into consideration where each institution is located and is separated into three main categories: General Health and Safety, Instructional Guidelines, and Student Services. Among the key recommendations are:

In person education will require face coverings to be worn by faculty, staff and students.

Community colleges should conduct health screenings on employees, students and visitors before each campus visit.

Community colleges should take additional measures to ensure social distancing and safety as determined by the features of spaces, learning methods, and other factors.

Each community college should consider the needs of vulnerable staff or students when administering guidelines.

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