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Back To School Guidance Expected This Month

Carter Staley/NPR illinois

A list of health and safety guidelines for getting students back in classrooms is scheduled to be released before the end of the month. It will provide rules and recommendations for more than 850 school districts resuming classes this fall.

Still, a one-size-fits-all approach isn't realistic, according to Illinois Superintendent Dr. Carmen Ayala.

"Because community A in southern Illinois is not the same as community B in suburban Illinois or in urban Illinois," she said.

"As much as we have tried to provide some common things, it still will remain the district's ability, given their community context, to make the best reopening plan to meet the needs of the community and children that they serve."

The guidelines will offer flexibility. But there will also be requirements, like the wearing of face masks or coverings by students and staff at all times, even on buses. Social distancing of six feet will be encouraged when possible. And districts will be expected to execute a cleaning regimen.

Educators have three options for the upcoming school year: bring kids back into buildings, remote learning, or a mix of both, which could allow for fewer students in the classroom at one time. Of the three, resumption of in-person instruction is considered optimal.

It's likely some districts will be able to implement stricter policies, such as temperature checks for students and others entering a building. Still unclear is what discipline is possible for those refusing to adhere to the rules.

"We have been working tirelessly, around the clock with other agencies," Ayala said. "Is it going to be perfect? No. We simply cannot answer all of the questions that are out there. It will be difficult to say everyone has to follow this schedule or everybody has to make sure these things are in place because we will get pushback."

A series of webinars with educational leaders is being planned once the list is made public.

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