(The Center Square) – The Illinois State Board of Education backed a resolution signaling all schools should prepare to return to full in-person learning next fall.
The board voted 7-0 Wednesday after receiving guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health and is subject to “favorable public health conditions.”
The resolution essentially indicates the board supports State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala’s ability to make a declaration requiring in-person learning. The resolution itself doesn’t change existing policy. The policy would change when Ayala makes a declaration requiring in-person learning. Ayala plans to finalize such a declaration after current school year ends, spokeswoman Jackie Matthews said.
A declaration from Ayala would state that all schools must fully resume in-person learning for all student attendance days, provided that remote instruction be made available for students who are not eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine and are under quarantine order by a local health department or IDPH.
“As always, our top priority is our students, and we know that in most cases in-person learning is in their best interest,” Ayala said.
The vote came after some parents asked for the proposal to be rejected out of consideration of children too young to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, including Katharine Eastvold of Springfield, who has a 10-year-old child.
“I’m here to urge the board not to adopt the resolution on the table but instead allow school districts the flexibility to offer remote learning as an option for those students who cannot be vaccinated by the beginning of the next school year,” Eastvold said.
Currently, children younger than 12 remain unable to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Studies are ongoing with both Pfizer and Moderna and trial results could be released as early as September.
Ayala said the resolution would allow for some clarity as districts prepare for the fall school year and begin making decisions on staffing and budgets.
“It does not in any way take away from school district the local authority that they have to be establishing remote learning programs,” State Board of Education Chairman Darren Reisberg said.
The resolution does not include a vaccine requirement, but calls for rapid COVID-19 testing at schools across the state.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated it will issue updated guidance for schools “in the coming weeks” to help with planning for the fall.
“We are pleased that ISBE is guiding districts to provide five days a week of in-person instruction,” Chicago Public Schools spokesperson James Gherardi said in a statement.”This is what the district has been working towards and there seems to be a consensus at all levels of government that opening schools full-time in the fall is a critical priority.”