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Guidelines to Return to In-Person Instruction
Lisa Rosenkrans
Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Gov. Pritzker Announces Guidelines for Illinois Education Institutions to Safely Return to In-Person Instruction as State Advances to Phase 4 of Restore Illinois Plan

Administration to Provide 2.5 Million Face Masks to Every K-12 Public School District for Students, Staff Financial Assistance Available for Students Returning to Colleges and Universities

Chicago — Today, Governor JB Pritzker announced guidelines that will allow K-12 schools, community colleges, and higher education institutions to safely resume in person instruction for the upcoming academic year. To help schools meet these guidelines and prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) will provide public K-12 districts in Illinois with 2.5 million cloth face masks, allowing K-12 schools to provide a cloth face mask to all students and staff.

The governor was joined by Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Director Dr. Carmen Ayala, Illinois Association of School Boards Executive Director Tom Bertrand, Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) Executive Director Ginger Ostro and Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) Executive Director Dr. Brian Durham for today’s announcement. This guidance follows the release of industry-specific guidelines for Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan, announced yesterday.

“Classroom learning provides necessary opportunities for our students to learn, socialize, and grow. The benefits of in-person instruction can’t be overstated,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “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.”

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) received $569 million in federal funding from the CARES Act for K-12 education, approximately $512 million of which will go directly to school districts to address local needs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. IBSE will use the remaining $54.1 million to provide additional funding to schools in six categories: laptops and tablets, internet connectivity, virtual coaching for teachers, professional development, and support for entities who cannot receive direct funds due to ineligibility for Title I.

Local education agencies must apply to ISBE to receive funding from the CARES Act and the amount received will be based on the number and percentage of low-income students they serve. ISBE has already received applications from 580 local education agencies for this funding, with the goal of purchasing a variety of tools and resources, including technology devices, WiFi hotspots, and health and safety equipment for schools in need. Local school districts also plan to use funding to hire mental health support staff to provide services for students, families, and staff. ISBE has approved 534 applications thus far and distributed nearly three million dollars in funds.


The guidance released by ISBE and IDPH today allows schools to bring students back to school buildings in the fall while ensuring the health and safety of students and staff remains the top priority. The guidance was developed in collaboration with 56 educators, superintendents, social workers, nurses, and other stakeholders from across the state. View the guidance here.

“Nothing compares to face-to-face interactions between students and their teachers,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “The dedication of Illinoisans to social distancing over the past several months has allowed us to plan to bring students back to classrooms this fall while keeping health and safety our number one priority. School will look a bit differently than we are accustomed to, but our focus remains on ensuring each and every child receives a high quality education. As much as possible, we have tried to provide common and clear requirements, while preserving the flexibility of each school and district to develop a reopening plan that meets the needs of the community and the children that they serve.

Each school district will determine how to implement the guidance based on its unique student enrollment, school facilities, staffing, transportation, and technological capacity. 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.

The IDPH requirements for schools to reopen in Phase 4 are:

  • Require use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including face coverings;

  • Prohibit more than 50 individuals from gathering in one space;

  • Require social distancing whenever possible;

  • Conduct symptom screenings and temperature checks or require self-certification that individuals entering school buildings are symptom free; and

  • Increase schoolwide cleaning and disinfection.

  • Require social distancing be observed as much as possible;

  • Require that schools conduct symptom screenings and temperature checks or require that individuals self-certify that they are free of symptoms before entering school buildings; and

  • Require an increase in schoolwide cleaning and disinfection.

To ensure Illinois school districts are able to obtain the necessary supplies to resume in person instruction safely, ISBE and the Chief Procurement Office Bureau of Strategic Sourcing have secured several joint purchase agreements that K-12 can utilize to obtain supplies at prices that may be more competitive than purchasing on their own. ISBE will continue to expand the number of purchasing agreements in the coming weeks.

“In developing this guidance, we have put a focus on making sure in-person instruction is done safely and in an equitable way,” said Brenda Calvin, principal of Sauk Elementary School in Richton Park and a member of the Transition Advisory Workgroup. “As a principal, I am looking forward to seeing students and teachers back in the classroom, and this document provides administrators across the state with the guidance and support they need to plan for the fall, no matter what their school looks like. I thank ISBE, IDPH, and Governor Pritzker for continuing to emphasize equity as we return to in-person instruction and for continuing to care for the well-being of all students in the state of Illinois.”

“The Phase 4 guidance for schools focuses on the unique context of the 852 school districts in the state of Illinois,” said Dr. Jennifer Garrison, superintendent of Vandalia Community Unit School District 203 and a member of the Transition Advisory Workgroup. “We acknowledge and thank the Governor's Office for the emphasis on local control. We must focus on the safety of our staff and students first and foremost and at the same time be creative in how we return to learning in-person, specifically in Vandalia Schools. The opportunity to have a seat at the table and bring the downstate rural voice to the table is greatly appreciated. As educators, we have had many challenges before, and now is our time to turn the challenges before us into a unique opportunity to innovate with a laser-like focus on equity.”

“I am grateful that ISBE reached out to a variety of education stakeholders in developing this transition plan,” said Lindsey Jensen, 2018 Illinois Teacher of the Year, member of the Transition Advisory Workgroup, and teacher at Dwight Township High School. “In these unprecedented times, we are each other’s greatest resource. Having a variety of voices at the proverbial table ensures that we are considering all facets of education so that we can equitably meet the needs of all students when they return to our buildings