Last week, the Illinois State Board of Education released a series of requirements and guidelines regarding in-person schooling resuming this fall.

Amongst the requirements released by ISBE is a requirement to use personal protective equipment such as face coverings, a prohibition of more than 50 individuals from gathering in a single space, a requirement to social distance whenever possible, a requirement to conduct symptom screenings and temperature checks or require self-certification that individuals entering school buildings are symptom free and a requirement to increase school-wide cleaning and disinfection. Other aspects of reopening school in August were left under the control of local boards of education.

Edwards County Community Unit School District #1 Superintendent of Schools David Cowger noted that he was pleased with much of the state’s reopening plan, with one notable exception.

I was happy to see that there were many areas which are left to local control giving districts the ability to make decisions which best fit their needs,” said Cowger. “I was fearful that restrictions would be tighter taking decisions away and forcing schools into the corner where a blended (combination of in-person & remote learning) curriculum/schedule would be required.

“{However, I wish local districts had the ability to enforce their own facial covering policy versus it being mandated.”

Overall, though, Cowger expressed a pleasantly surprised outlook on the state requirements.

“Actually there is much more leeway given to local districts than I was anticipating,” he admitted. “Some of those items are as follows: boards can decide on classroom sizes, In-person learning/Remote Learning opportunities, cleaning/disinfecting schedules, method of student health monitoring/symptom checks, visitors in/out of school, third party school use, schools ability to enforce social distancing as much as possible, etc.

“With the exceptions of a few hard mandates such as facial coverings and no groups exceeding 50 the State provided recommendations.”

Julie Harrelson, incoming superintendent of schools for Grayville Community Unit School District #1, also stated that she was not in favor of facial coverings being a requirement for reopening.

Taking temperatures before students enter the building and extra disinfection cleaning is manageable,” she said. “I would not recommend every student and staff member wear a mask or face shield.”

The new Grayville administrator, who expressed that she believes local health departments and school boards should be in charge of crafting reopening plans for school districts, stated that facial coverings will make educating children more difficult.

“It’s impossible to expect children to keep masks on all day,” explained Harrelson. “Faculty and staff would be fighting that all day rather than teaching.”

For the rest of the story, check out this week's Navigator.