Updated ISBE/ IDPH Guidance for Schools
On March 9, 2021, the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Public Health released an updated joint guidance document regarding students returning to school and in-person learning. Overall, some of the restrictions/ recommendations on group sizes and social distancing have been eased. The new guidance has been designed for returning students to school and according to ISBE/IDPH “guidance supports the return to in-person instruction as soon as practicable in every Illinois community”
This is great news for Illinois communities and demonstrates that as we have more folks vaccinated, or herd immunity increases, we are getting closer to being back to normal. As you are all aware, we have been able to provide in-person instruction for a majority of the school year, a testament that we can be safe at school when guidance is followed. Furthermore, schools being in-person have provided data to show that transmission of the virus in our setting has been minimal compared to the general public.
Although some of the guidance has been eased, the five essential mitigation strategies will still be utilized to ensure safety while providing in-person instruction. They are:
1. Require use of appropriate PPE; including face masks.
2. Require social distancing be observed as much as possible.
3. Require contact tracing/ isolation of those suspected or confirmed to be COVID positive.
4. Require increased schoolwide cleaning/ disinfecting procedures.
5. Promote and adhere to handwashing and respiratory etiquette.
Grant and Illini will continue to adhere to the guidance from ISBE/IDPH, along with our local health department, but we will be making some procedural changes in light of the updated guidance. Below is a summary of some of the updated guidance and how our district will implement procedures moving forward. Please remember that all procedures/ guidance are subject to change.
- We encourage all students to return to in-person instruction. A remote option will be available through the remainder of the school year. Declarations have already been made for 4th quarter and we are moving ahead with current plans. In the fall, the expectation will be for in-person learning, with remote options removed unless there is a medical need (as of now). I would expect further guidance on what fall will look like.
- Parents should still check their children for symptoms prior to sending them to school each day. This is the best first line defense to decrease spread.
- CDC, IDPH have indicated that it is no longer necessary for students to be temperature screened prior to entering the building. We will be rolling back this procedure upon returning 4th quarter.
- Capacity limits for large spaces (cafeteria, gyms, multi-purpose rooms) will be based upon the ability to maintain social distancing. Buses are to remain at a limit of 50, per the guidance. For our district, this mostly applies to our lunch periods.
- Decisions to host events outside of school (graduation, open house, dances, registration, extra-curriculars) will be a local decision, provided district can follow safety protocols.
- Social distancing for in-person learning has now been adjusted to 3 feet to 6 feet for students and vaccinated staff, with unvaccinated staff maintaining 6 feet as much as possible. This change will allow for increased student capacity in our classrooms.
- Face masks will still be required for staff and students, following current guidance.
- Our cohorts/ groupings will remain in place to limit exposure and/or transmission. We will still rotate staff at the middle school and keep classes separate as much as possible. This might be adjusted regarding outdoor recess, weather permitting.
- Students and Staff will still be quarantined/ isolated in collaboration with the local health department if there is a positive case or exposure to a positive case. The new guidance does change quarantine for individuals who have had a full vaccination or have medically tested positive in the last 90 days (have anti-bodies).
- We will continue to implement increased cleaning and disinfecting procedures.