With the start of the 2020-2021 school year less than a month away, school districts continue working on plans to keep students and staff safe with the rise in COVID-19 cases in Illinois.
Preparations for this upcoming school year have been like no other, and plans frequently change based on requirements, guidance, and clarification from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).
The framework of many area school’s plans have been designed by district transition teams based on survey results, input from the teachers’ union, school board members, the requirements and recommendations from ISBE, IDPH, County Health Departments, legal counsel, and insurance carriers.
While families have many questions about what the upcoming school year will look like, here is a list of ten recommendations to date.
•All individuals in school buildings serving students in grades prekindergarten through 12 must wear a face mask at all times, with limited exceptions, even when social distancing is maintained.
•Face coverings do not need to be worn outside as long as social distance is maintained.
•Each school will have to come up with its own plan for keeping students and staff appropriately distanced.
•The state is recommending that students get assigned seating and stay in those seats for as long as possible. If possible, desks should be rearranged so they are six feet apart.
•Schools are being asked to limit number of people in hallways at the same time. Guidelines suggest that lockers not be used and that locker sharing should be prohibited.
•While in-school instruction is strongly recommended for all children, remote learning likely will continue in some form based on individual family and school needs.
•Schools are going to have to take temperatures or require a self-certification of temperature and symptoms for all staff, students and visitors entering school buildings.
•Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or other known symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, fatigue, muscle and body aches, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, congestion or runny nose, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea may not enter buildings.
•Indoor rehearsals are discouraged. Districts should consider moving music and band outside and reducing class sizes.
•Students should wear face masks while singing and avoid touching, choreography and singing or playing in circles. Instruments should not be shared at any time.
•Games and sports that require close guarding and any potential physical contact with another player must be avoided to comply with state health guidelines. When possible, physical education should be held outside.
•Hand-shaking, high fives or other physical contact is prohibited. Districts should consider not using locker rooms. Use of shared equipment is not recommended.
•Schools and districts should consider adding additional meal service times so cafeterias are able to operate with 50 people at a time. Schools may also want to consider having students eat at their desks or outside.
•Meals should be individually plated. Buffets, salad bars and the sharing of food and utensils should be prohibited.
•While playground use is allowed during Phase 4, the state is asking districts to consider making playgrounds off limits to adhere to social distancing requirements.
•Playground equipment that is to be used should be monitored, the guidelines state, and there should be a cap on how many students can use the various pieces of equipment at the same time.
•Face coverings must be worn on buses, too. There can be no more than 50 people on a bus at a time and social distancing must be maintained to the greatest extent possible.
•Students will be subject to symptom and temperature checks, which may include self-reporting, before they can get on the bus. Seating charts are recommended.
•Schools will need to create health care areas that allow students to social distance and provide separate areas for sick and healthy children.
•Health care offices should contain a supervised quarantine space for staff and students experiencing what could be COVID-19 symptoms.
•Field trips are discouraged at this time. The state is hoping that schools hold off on any field trips until health officials determined they are safe. The CDC recommendation is to use virtual activities and events instead.