Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Friday that all Illinois schools will remain closed for the rest of the 2020 school year.
The announcement was made during the governor's daily coronavirus press briefing, where he revealed in-class instruction will be suspended.
"I know that many have felt this was inevitable – but trust me when I say, this was not a decision I made lightly," Pritzker said. "The importance of our schools and our in-person school days is not just a question of tradition and sentimentality, as essential as those things are. The shutting of in-person classroom time also risks a drop in instructional time, an extended window in which students can potentially experience summer learning loss, and an educational landscape in which some districts have more experience with remote learning than others.These challenges weighed heavily on me as we came to this decision – but my priority remains unchanged: how do we save the most lives during this difficult time? The answer to that question leaves us only with the path forward."
Pritzker said the state plans to work with school districts that have "unique challenges" and will provide resources and funds to schools that serve low-income students and communities. He urged schools and teachers to give grades that reflect the unprecedented times.
"Grades should deliver feedback and not be used as a tool for compliance," he said. "COVID-19 is forcing far too many of our students to deal firsthand with concepts that even adults find nerve-wracking. Let’s recognize that and be supportive of our students."
Pritzker thanked teachers, administrators and parents as they adjust to a new way of educating.
"And to children of all ages – this is a very strange moment that you’re living in," Pritzker said. "Your parents and I didn’t experience something like this when we were kids – but I can tell you for sure that the hard things we did live through, we learned from. And you’re going to learn from this. You’re going to see what it looks like when the world comes together, and what it looks like to put your faith in science and research and the teams of people here in Illinois and beyond who are working on treatments and vaccines to save lives. We will get to the other side of this, and that other side will be a place that appreciates the best of the before, but with a greater sense of compassion and connection. And the best part is that you are going to be the ones guiding us forward. All of you, with your creativity, your passion, and your care for others are going to shape our future. Let me be the first to say, I can’t wait to see all that you accomplish."
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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot suggested Pritzker may make such an announcement this week.
"Teams have been working on contingency plans since the very beginning," Lightfoot said Friday.
The Illinois Education Association President Kathi Griffin said the group supports Pritzker's decision.
"We believe it is the right move to ensure the safety of our students, our educators and our communities," she said in a statement.
Pritzker said the school closures do not mean the statewide stay-at-home order is also being extended, saying a decision on the order will be made on "a day-by-day basis."
Illinois remains under a stay-at-home order through April 30, unless otherwise extended.