There are still plenty of questions surrounding how Illinois schools will return to the classroom in the fall, but one thing is clear: face coverings will be required for all.
What will that look like for students and teachers?
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency will provide public K-12 districts in Illinois with 2.5 million cloth face masks.
According to the guidance, "all individuals in school buildings, including all public and nonpublic schools that serve students in prekindergarten through grade 12, must wear face coverings at all times unless they are younger than 2 years of age; have trouble breathing; or are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance."
Here's a look at the rules for K-12 schools:
- Face coverings will need to be worn at all times inside schools buildings, even when social distancing is maintained
- Those who are medical exempt are urged to bring a physicians note stating so
- Face coverings will not be required while outside
- Teachers can wear face shields instead of masks
- When face coverings are worn, they should cover both the nose and mouth and fit snugly to the face with no gaps
- Cloth face coverings should be machine washed or washed by hand
- Ensure face coverings are removed properly for eating, etc.
For higher education and community colleges, face masks will also be required in school buildings, common areas and dining centers when not eating. In-person education will require face coverings to be worn by faculty, staff and students.
The changes were announced Tuesday along with other guidelines for schools preparing to reopen in the fall.
“Classroom learning provides necessary opportunities for our students to learn, socialize, and grow. The benefits of in-person instruction can’t be overstated,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Today ISBE, IBHE, and ICCB are issuing guidance that will serve as baseline public health requirements and expectations for the return of in-person learning this fall in P-12 schools and higher education, including all public school districts, non-public schools, colleges and universities. In close consultation with IDPH, infectious disease experts at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and other public health professionals, the guidance focuses on keeping students, teachers and families healthy and safe. It recognizes that Illinois is a diverse state, and school districts and institutions of higher education across Illinois will face unique challenges in how they’ll operate within their communities.”
How the guidance is implemented will depend largely on each individual district's plan.
"Each school district will determine how to implement the guidance based on its unique student enrollment, school facilities, staffing, transportation, and technological capacity," the guidance states. "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."
Pritzker signed legislation last week that changes the school code to give districts more options for remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes “blended learning,” in which students receive instruction both remotely and in person.
Pritzker's latest guidance comes just days before Illinois is set to enter phase four of its reopening plan.
Phase four of the "Restore Illinois" plan allows for the reopening or expansion of several industries, including indoor dining at restaurants, health and fitness, movies and theaters, museums and zoos and more. This next phase also increases the size of gatherings that are allowed from 10 people to a maximum of 50 people.