The state’s three education boards for K-12, higher education and community colleges have announced guidelines for Illinois schools and colleges to return to in-person instruction as the state advances to Phase 4 of the Governor’s Restore Illinois plan. Some of the guidelines have immediately been met with concern from parents, students and educators alike.
GUIDANCE FOR K-12 SCHOOLS
The guidance released by ISBE and IDPH allows schools to bring students back to school buildings in the fall, but health and safety of students and staff remains the top priority. The guidance was developed in collaboration with 56 educators, superintendents, social workers, nurses, and other stakeholders from across the state. View the guidance here.
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:
- Use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including face coverings;
- Prohibit more than 50 individuals from gathering in one space;
- Practice 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.
To ensure Illinois school districts are able to obtain the necessary supplies to resume in person instruction safely, ISBE and the Chief Procurement Office Bureau of Strategic Sourcing have secured several joint purchase agreements that K-12 can utilize to obtain supplies at prices that may be more competitive than purchasing on their own. ISBE will continue to expand the number of purchasing agreements in the coming weeks.
GUIDANCE FOR HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS
The Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) established guidelines for higher education institutions to reopen their classrooms based on input from IDPH and higher education leaders throughout Illinois. 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.
GUIDANCE FOR 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:
- 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.
The guidance was developed in partnership with the ICCB’s Return to Campus Committee and approved by IDPH. The full list of guidelines is available at the ICCB website.