On March 20, 2020, Governor Pritzker issued Executive Order No. 2020-10 (A/K/A COVID-19 Executive Order No. 8). This blast addresses questions concerning the application of the Executive Order to pre-K-12 schools. It is our belief that the Executive Order does not materially impact the operations of schools under the previous Governor’s Executive Order, other than the extended time period under which schools must continue to operate in this manner. If you have more questions or are unclear about anything, please call us at any time. We are available 24/7.

What does Executive Order 2020-10 provide?

Illinois residents must shelter-in-place from March 21, 2020, at 5:00 p.m., through the end of April 7, 2020. All individuals may leave their homes or place of residence only for Essential Activities, Essential Governmental Functions, or to operate Essential Businesses and Operations as defined in the Executive Order. All businesses and operations in Illinois, except for Essential Businesses and Operations (which includes Essential Governmental Functions), must cease all activities except for Minimum Basic Operations. Essential Businesses and Operations, including Essential Governmental functions, are encouraged to remain open. At all times, individuals must maintain social distancing consistent with the Social Distancing Requirements set forth in the Executive Order as much as reasonably possible.

Which Essential Activities relate to pre-K-12 schools?

Essential Activities include:

  • Travel to and from educational institutions for purposes of receiving material for distance learning, for receiving meals, and any other related services;
  • Travel to and from work to provide Essential Governmental Functions such as school board functions and Essential Businesses or Operations such as operations of pre-K-12 schools as described below; and
  • Transportation providers, which may operate when necessary for Essential Activities, Essential Governmental Functions, or operating pre-K-12 schools.

People may leave their homes for these and other Essential Activities under the Executive Order so long as they follow the Social Distancing Requirements discussed below.

Are pre-K-12 schools considered Essential Businesses and Operations under the Executive Order?

Yes. Essential Businesses and Operations are defined to include Essential Governmental Functions. Essential Governmental Functions include those needed to ensure the continuing operation of the government agencies or to provide for or support the health, safety, and welfare of the public, including such functions being performed by contractors. The Executive Order requires each government body to identify employees and/or contractors necessary to the performance of those actions. Educational institutions, including public and private pre-K-12 schools, also are expressly authorized to operate for purposes of facilitating distance learning, performing critical research, or performing essential functions, provided that social distancing of six-foot spacing for individuals is maintained to the greatest extent possible. Schools must also follow the additional Social Distancing Requirements set forth in the Executive Order.

May pre-K-12 schools still have certain employees come to school to perform essential job responsibilities?

Yes. Governmental employees working for or to support Essential Governmental Functions (see above) are “categorically exempt” from this Executive Order.

What are the Social Distancing Requirements set forth in the Executive Order?

Whenever people are outside the home as permitted under the Executive Order, people must frequently wash hands, use hand sanitizer, and maintain a six-foot social distance. Additionally, Essential Businesses and Operations (including Essential Government Functions) must implement the following Required Measures where possible:

  • Designation with signage, tape, or by other means six-foot spacing for employees and individuals in line to maintain appropriate distance;
  • Having hand sanitizer and sanitizing products readily available for employees and customers;
  • Implementing separate operating hours for elderly and vulnerable customers; and
  • Posting online whether a facility is open and how best to reach the facility and continue services by phone or remotely.

Are the Governor’s previous executive orders still in effect?

Yes. Executive Order 2020-10 states that it is consistent with and does not amend or supersede COVID-19 Executive Order No. 3 (concerning school closure, chronic absence, and e-learning) or COVID-19 Executive Order No. 4 (concerning the continued availability of school buildings for the provision of food and other non-educational services), except that affected schools are ordered closed through April 7, 2020.

Can schools still provide food services under the Executive Order?

Yes, if the schools follow the protocols in the Executive Order. Schools that typically provide food services to students or members of the public may continue to do so under the Executive Order if the food is provided to students or members of the public on a pick-up and takeaway basis only. Schools shall not permit the food to be eaten on-site or at any other gathering site due to COVID-19’s propensity to physically impact surfaces and personal property. Additionally, schools must follow the Social Distancing Requirements discussed above while providing food.

Even though schools are closed, may their playgrounds remain open?

No. Although people may engage in outdoor activity, the Order requires that playgrounds be closed because they may increase the spread of COVID-19.

May school construction continue during the Order?

Yes. Individuals may leave their home to provide services or perform work to offer, provision, operate, maintain and repair Essential Infrastructure, which includes public works. In addition, Essential Businesses and Operations are defined to include Building and Construction Tradesmen and Tradeswomen, as well as any other service providers who provide services that are necessary for maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of Essential Businesses and Operations.

Has this Order changed the manner in which school boards must conduct school board meetings?

No. School boards are still required to hold regular school board meetings and comply with the more flexible OMA requirements, as described in our previous blast sent on March 19 “Public Access Counselor Issues Guidance on OMA and FOIA.” However, in light of this “shelter-in-place” Executive Order in effect through April 7, it is likely the public will not physically attend board meetings; and, therefore, it is even more important that school boards find methods of transparency when implementing virtual meetings and provide opportunities for remote public participation.

Has anything changed with respect to the designation of school closure days as Act of God days?

No. In a March 22 email to districts, the State Superintendent said that, as previously announced, every school closure day through March 30 will count as an Act of God Day. Later this week, ISBE will issue guidance regarding March 31 and beyond. ISBE contemplates that districts will eventually transition to Remote Instructional Days and has convened an advisory group to make recommendations regarding the nature of such days.

Will there be further interpretation of this Order?

Issues may arise when the Executive Order goes into effect, including the enforcement of the Order by state and local authorities and the interpretation of “essential” services and personnel. We will provide supplemental updates, but feel free to contact an HLERK attorney with any questions as this situation develops.