Guidelines for Safe Return to School Announced

By Jeremy Coumbes on June 24, 2020 at 9:39am

School Districts in Illinois will now have a better idea of what the fall back to school picture will look like.

Governor J.B. Pritzker announced guidelines today for the safe return of in-person learning in K-12 schools, community colleges and higher education institutions. The guidance follows the release of industry specific guidelines for Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan that were announced yesterday.

Specifically, K-12 schools will be allowed to return to in-person learning in Phase 4, under set guidelines. Personal protective equipment, including the use of masks will be required. No more than 50 individuals will be allowed to gather in one space at a time, and social distancing will be required whenever possible.

Pritzker says that assistance is being provided to schools to make sure all attending can stay safe.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency plans to provide cloth masks, to every student, teacher and staff member in every public school district 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.”

Schools are to conduct symptom screenings and temperature checks, or require self-certification that individuals entering the school are symptom free, and increased school wide cleaning and disinfection will also be required.

Pritzker says the guidance was developed in collaboration with 56 educators, superintendents, social workers, nurses, and other stakeholders from across the state.

He says each school district will determine how to implement the guidance based on its unique student enrollment, school facilities, staffing, transportation, and technological capacity.

State Superintendent of schools Carmen Ayala says schools will need to adopt a Remote and Blended Remote Learning Day Plan.

This fall will not be business as usual, and we will update our guidance as needed, in response to challenging and changing public health conditions. Schools and districts must be prepared to return to remote learning if the virus surges again.”

The plan, which is to be approved by the district superintendent, is to outline that accessibility to remote learning is available to all students in the district, and that the means for conferring with an educator is available for each student, as well as demonstrating how districts will take attendance and monitor each student’s remote participation.

He says students should expect the possibility of a combination of in-person and remote learning in many areas of the state as schools work to maintain education and social distancing. He says districts should be ready to move to fully remote learning in the event there is another outbreak of cases in the fall, and schools would again have to be shut down to in-person learning.

School districts are to work with their local health department to determine these policies. Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health Dr. Ngoze Ezike says the rules and management provided to schools in the event someone at the school tests positive for COVID-19 “does not really change from current workplace procedures” already established in Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois Plan.

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) received $569 million in federal funding from the CARES Act for K-12 education, approximately $512 million of which will go directly to school districts to address local needs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. IBSE will use the remaining $54.1 million to provide additional funding to schools in six categories: laptops and tablets, internet connectivity, virtual coaching for teachers, professional development, and support for entities who cannot receive direct funds due to ineligibility for Title I.

Local education agencies must apply to ISBE to receive funding from the CARES Act and the amount received will be based on the number and percentage of low-income students they serve. ISBE has already received applications from 580 local education agencies for this funding, and has already approved 534 applications thus far and distributed nearly three million dollars in funds.

The full list of guidance is available at