ISBE/IDPH Guidance

Today, ISBE and IDPH released its Part Three Joint Guidance for schools to resume in-person learning in Phase 4. As set forth in the Governor’s Restore Illinois Plan, the four public health regions in the State may reach Phase 4 on different dates and may return to an earlier phase if necessitated by public health indicators. At this time, it is anticipated that all regions will be in Phase 4 this fall to allow for in-person instruction to start the 2020-2021 school year.

ISBE emphasizes that while in-person instruction is strongly encouraged in Phase 4, this does not mean a return to pre-pandemic operations. Appropriate social distancing, face coverings, enhanced sanitation measures, and other accommodations will be necessary to ensure the safety of students, staff, and their families.

During Phase 4, IDPH guidelines will:

  • Require use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including face coverings;
  • Prohibit more than 50 individuals from gathering in one space;
  • Require social distancing (6 feet apart) 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 school-wide cleaning and disinfection.

All public and nonpublic schools in Illinois serving prekindergarten through 12th grade students must follow these guidelines.

ISBE notes that the requirements are subject to change pursuant to updated public health guidance and changing public health conditions. School leaders should remain alert for any updates. In addition, ISBE notes that schools and districts should prepare for a return to remote instruction in the event of a resurgence of the virus or a second wave of it in the fall. The Guidance provides additional information on remote and blended remote learning pursuant to P.A. 101-0643 (SB 1569). In addition, ISBE states that a high priority should be placed on providing in-person instruction for students who have IEPs, 504 Plans, and/or who receive English language supports when building an equitable schedule for blended remote learning days, and that schools should consider prioritizing in-person instruction for students under the age of 13 and those who have had greater difficulty learning remotely, as evidenced by the intake form and attendance rates from spring 2020.

The ISBE Press Release summarizes the health and safety guidance for schools during Phase 4 that are detailed in the Joint Guidance.  In addition, ISBE posted an FAQ to the Part 3 Transition Joint Guidance for starting the 2020-2021 school year. The FAQ will be updated by ISBE on an ongoing basis.

IHSA Guidance

The Illinois High School Association (“IHSA”) released its Phase 4 Return to Play Guidelines for member schools that are in a Phase 4 region under the Governor’s Restore Illinois plan. The Return to Play Guidelines were developed by the IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and approved by the IDPH. An IHSA member high school may conduct team activities under the Phase 4 Return to Play Guidelines only if the school has local school district approval and the school is located in a Phase 4 region (or better). The local school administration determines the permitted activities at the school. Decisions should be made in consideration of local circumstances and in consultation with local public health departments.

On July 14, 2020, IHSA released a Press Release with updated information regarding its Phase 4 Guidelines and its Return to Play Guidelines moving forward.

Governor’s Phase 4 Reopening Guidance

On June 22, 2020, the Governor released guidelines for Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan, which are expected to become effective on June 26, 2020, although that date could change based on public health indicators.

The Phase 4 guidelines and tool kits for various industries are available on the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s (“DCEO”) website here, including an overview of the Phase 4 guidelines.

Schools should refer to the ISBE/IDPH Part 3 Joint Guidance discussed above.

On June 26, 2020, Governor Pritzker signed a new Disaster Declaration and Executive Order No. 2020-44. These documents together extend the Disaster Declaration and certain previous Executive Orders through July 26, 2020.

E.O. 2020-44 re-issued and extended E.O. 2020-40, as amended. E.O. 2020-40 allowed schools to re-open for limited in-person instruction during the summer. The amended requirements reflect that all health regions in Illinois are in Phase 4. Schools must follow IDPH guidance for Phase 4 and take proactive measures to ensure the safety of students, staff, and visitors, including, but not limited to:

  • Limiting the number of people in one space to 50 or fewer, consistent with public health guidance.
  • Ensuring compliance with social distancing requirements to the greatest extent possible. For purposes of this Executive Order, social distancing includes maintaining at least six-foot distance from other individuals and discouraging physical contact between individuals.
  • Ensuring appropriate hygienic practices, including washing hands with soap and water for at least twenty seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer, covering coughs or sneezes (into the sleeve or elbow, not hands), discouraging the sharing of personal items, and regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces.
  • Requiring the use of appropriate personal protective equipment, including the use of face coverings by students, staff, and visitors who are over age two and able to medically tolerate a face covering. Schools must provide face coverings to all employees who are not able to maintain a minimum six-foot social distance at all times and, to the extent possible, make disposable face coverings available for all students.

E.O. 2020-44 also re-issued and extended E.O. 2020-31 in its entirety regarding educator licensure and student graduation requirements. In addition, E.O. 2020-44 re-issued and extended Sections 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 of E.O. 2020-15 suspending certain provisions of the Illinois School Code.

Please contact an HLERK attorney with questions regarding the Phase 4 reopening guidance for schools.