As Illinois works through its plans for a phased reopening during the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. J.B. Pritzker provided residents with a glimpse at how the state plans to eventually reopen its schools.
State schools, which have been closed since mid-March, are continuing to use e-learning programs to help students continue their education, but the governor announced Tuesday that physical school buildings will be allowed to reopen under phase four of the state’s new phased reopening plan.
“Schools, summer and fall programs, child care and higher education can open with safety guidance, and all outdoor recreation programs will be allowed,” Pritzker said of the fourth phase of the five-phase plan.
Phase four, which will be implemented when specific regions in the state see continued declines in positivity rates and hospitalizations, while maintaining what the state calls “surge capacity,” will see a slew of new openings. Restaurants, bars, spas, movie theaters, retailers, and health and fitness clubs, will all be allowed to open with new capacity limits.
Public gatherings will also be allowed for up to 50 people.
Currently, the state is in phase two of the plan, with Pritzker saying that the earliest a region will be allowed to move into phase three is May 29.
The governor said that he has spoken to educational leaders, as well as parents and students, about the best ways to go about reopening schools, summer programs and other activities for children during the pandemic.
“I’ve listened to people from across the state and the nation about what can be done to put us on a path toward normalcy,” he said. “I’ve asked non-profit organizations and school leaders and businesses for their best ideas. I’ve spoken with kids and parents about how to make sure their summer is fun. This data-driven plan follows the best epidemiological recommendations, but it’s also inspired by people across our state who carry real passion to make sure that their communities can begin thriving again, even in the face of this pandemic.”
In late April, Pritzker advised teachers and school administrators to prepare for both in-person learning and e-learning when the new school year begins, saying that the data needed to determine a course of action won’t be available until later this summer.
“I would prepare for both because it is so unclear,” he said. “Without knowing the answer, e-learning is an important thing for us to develop.”
School districts across the state have been working to get students the devices they need for e-learning capability, and the state has also worked to improve internet access for those students.
The plans for reopening schools were one of several new plans put forward by the governor Tuesday. Pritzker also said that large-scale conventions and events will not be able to resume until phase five of the plan, requiring a vaccine or an effective treatment of the coronavirus.