Earlier today, June 4, 2020, the Governor issued Executive Order 2020-40. The Executive Order states that all four health regions in Illinois have moved into Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois phased reopening plan, and Phase 3 allows schools to reopen and provide limited in-person instruction, in accordance with Illinois Department of Public Health (“IDPH”) guidance.
Accordingly, effective June 4, 2020, “[a]ll public and nonpublic schools in Illinois serving pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students may open for limited in-person educational purposes, such as summer school, following the completion of the regular 2019-2020 school term. All public and nonpublic schools may continue to provide food and other non-educational services.” Executive Order 2020-40 supersedes any contrary provisions in any previous Executive Order; any provisions of previous Executive Orders that are not contrary remain in full effect.
Importantly, schools that choose to reopen must follow IDPH guidance during Phase 3 and take proactive measures to ensure the safety of students, staff, and visitors, including, but not limited to:
- Limit the number of people in one space to 10 or fewer, consistent with public health guidance.
- Ensure compliance with social distancing requirements to the greatest extent possible. For purposes of the Executive Order, social distancing includes maintaining at least six-foot distance from other individuals and discouraging physical contact between individuals.
- Ensure appropriate hygienic practices, including washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 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.
- Require the use of appropriate PPE, including the use of face coverings (e.g., masks) 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.
Also today, ISBE and IDPH released their Part Two Joint Guidance for schools that wish to provide in-person summer instruction and other school activities as permitted during Phase 3. This guidance supersedes any previous guidance on summer school.
ISBE emphasizes that while schools now have the option to provide in-person instruction in Phase 3, it is not required. School leaders continue to have the flexibility and autonomy to continue with remote summer programming and transition back to in-person instruction based on local circumstances. Decisions regarding whether to provide in-person instruction and conduct allowable school activities during Phase 3 remain at the discretion of local school authorities, in consultation with local public health departments.
Additionally, while Phase 3 allows for the resumption of limited face-to-face instruction, schools cannot yet return to pre-pandemic operations. Schools should ensure individuals wear face coverings and other PPE appropriate to their duties and risk of exposure, wash hands frequently, conduct symptom and temperature checks before entering the school building, regularly clean and sanitize buildings and equipment, restrict the borrowing or sharing of items, social distance, and limit capacity in any space to 10 or fewer people to ensure the safety of students, staff, and their families. The ISBE Press Release summarizes the health and safety guidance for schools during Phase 3 that are detailed in the Joint Guidance.
The Illinois High School Association (“IHSA”) released Return to Play Guidelines, effective June 6, 2020, for member schools that are in a Phase 3 region. The Return to Play Guidelines were developed by the IHSA Medicine Advisory Committee and approved by the IDPH. An IHSA member school may conduct voluntary strength and conditioning workouts under the Return to Play Guidelines only after approval of the local school district and determination of the permitted activities by local school officials. Decisions should be made in consideration of local circumstances, and in consultation with local public health departments. The IHSA’s Return to Play Guidelines remain in place until the IHSA or the IDPH announce further guidelines.
Please contact your HLERK attorney with questions regarding the Executive Order 2020-40 and the ISBE/IDPH Joint Guidance on reopening schools during Phase 3.