Rumors that Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to announce a return to remote learning for the fall are "false," according to Illinois' superintendent of education.
"We are aware of a rumor circulating about the possibility of Governor Pritzker announcing at a press conference [Friday] a return to fully remote learning for the fall," Dr. Carmen I. Ayala wrote in an email Thursday evening. "We have confirmed with the Governor's Office that the rumor is false."
Rep. Jonathan Carroll in Northbrook echoed those comments.
"I just got off the phone with Deputy Governor Jesse Ruiz," Carroll tweeted Thursday evening. "He assures me that Governor Pritzker WILL NOT I repeat WILL NOT sign an executive order for full-time remote learning. Schools are still scheduled to open following the previously stated ISBE guidelines."
Rep. Chris Welch in Westchester also wrote on Instagram, sharing a screenshot of Ayala's email, that residents in his district "broke my phone with all of your calls about unsubstantiated rumors about another school shutdown."
Parents at multiple school districts in the Chicago area reported receiving word from school officials that state guidance could be changing Friday or "very soon."
According to Ayala, there are no changes to the Illinois State Board of Education and Illinois Department of Public Health guidance for the fall yet. Pritzker's office, however, could not be reached for comment on the matter.
The state's guidance was released last month as part of phase four of the “Restore Illinois” reopening plan. Under those state requirements, students will be limited to gatherings of fewer than 50 individuals, extra sanitation measures will be required and all students age 5 or older will be required to wear facial coverings.
However, Illinois' regulations specify that each district is required to come up with its own individual plan for returning to class.
Several districts have already announced plans to return to classrooms either full-time or on a hybrid structure, bringing students back to classrooms on a varying schedule. Others have chosen to stay entirely remote.
Pritzker hinted during a press conference earlier this week that the future of schools remains unclear.
"Our actions today, right now, will determine what school even looks like," he said Wednesday.
Pritzker took the unusual step Thursday of preemptively filing a lawsuit to ensure school children wear face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus when schools reopen in a few weeks.
The action filed late Thursday in Sangamon County Circuit Court by the state attorney general seeks a judge's approval of Pritzker's order that schoolchildren, teachers and staff wear coverings over mouths and noses among other measures to reduce the chance that the highly contagious and potentially deadly virus can spread.
“As a father, I would not send my children to a school where face coverings are not required because the science is clear: face coverings are critical to prevent the spread of coronavirus,” Pritzker said in a prepared statement.
A public school district and two private academies have informed the Illinois State Board of Education that Pritzker no longer has authority under emergency rule-making to require face masks in schools and that they will be developing their own safety rules.
With the surging spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, Pritzker on March 13 ordered public schools closed — eventually for the rest of the term. Despite a leveling off of cases in Illinois, there are concerns here and, especially in other parts of the nation where case numbers are rising again, about reopening the classic community center, the school, in an age where people are urged to wear face masks, stay 6 feet apart, and step up the hygiene protocol dramatically.
Among others, the state’s two major teachers’ unions have continued worries about keeping congested classrooms, hallways and playgrounds safe.
With public health officials announcing 25 additional deaths Thursday among 1,257 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases, the state has now lost 7,251 lives to virus-related complications. Nearly 160,000 have been infected; tens of thousands of those have recovered.