Quick and Consistent Guidance
Local superintendents are calling for the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to release quick and consistent guidance so the districts can plan for their 2021-2022 school year.
On June 16, Indian Prairie School District 204 Superintendent Adrian Talley and Naperville School District 203 Superintendent Dan Bridges were part of a group of superintendents testifying to ISBE.
In a document provided by District 203, Bridges said he is requesting “with tremendous urgency that the Illinois State Board of Education, in partnership with the Illinois Department of Public Health provide guidance and direction for the next school year now.”
“I recognize that you have had a difficult past 18 months and I respect that the decisions you have made and the guidance you have provided were done in the best interest of our schools,” said Bridges in the document. “Local school districts must make important financial decisions now regarding how to best use their resources to be ready to welcome all students back to school, full days, five days per week. We cannot wait until August for those guidelines. Inconsistency in the current guidance for schools compared to every other area throughout our state is more and more difficult to defend when addressing concerns from members of our communities.”
At the June 14 District 204 Board of Education meeting, Talley said he would be speaking to ISBE about procedures that need updating including mask wearing, social distancing protocols, and lunch protocols.
Talley said he would like ISBE to release their new guidance, as there are fiscal, and social and emotional learning implications if they delay their decision.
Bridges also said he appreciates the work of the Illinois High School Association as they have been advocating for students to participate in athletics and activities.
“Those opportunities are extremely important for our students – for both their physical and emotional well-being. This must continue,” said Bridges. “However, guidance provided for our student athletes must align with guidance that is provided for the remainder of the school day. Again, when there is not consistency, local school districts are put in a place of trying to justify why things like mask wearing is not required here, but it is there.”
Bridges also asked ISBE for guidance regarding capacity limits and mask guidance that is consistent with the same guidance used throughout the state.
Guidelines for Close Contacts
In a separate letter, a number of superintendents, including Talley and Bridges, wrote to ISBE Superintendent Carmen Ayala. The letter addresses quarantining of close contacts.
Earlier this year, the Illinois Department of Public Health and ISBE reduced social distancing at schools from six feet to three feet.
“However, those bodies did not update their guidelines for quarantining of close contacts in keeping with this change. As a result, schools that follow guidelines are now facing the reality of the consequences of these mismatched guidelines. That reality is one of large scale quarantining of students resulting from very few positive cases,” reads the letter. “Given the high fidelity we maintain in regard to other guidelines such as mask-wearing, sanitization, and increased ventilation, we believe our classrooms are strongly positioned to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 should an infected individual attend. We continue to track our data closely to monitor any potential spread inside of our school buildings.”
District 204 shared preliminary plans for the 2021-2022 school year and will modify plans accordingly if updated guidance comes from the state. District 203 has not yet shared their plans for the upcoming school year.
Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.
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