Schools continue to push for more in-person guidance before fall

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker says those wanting clearer guidance for in-person education won’t get complete certainty.

The governor also said the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over.

Schools across the state are still waiting for more detailed guidance on how to bring students back full-time while still complying with the governor’s COVID-19 protocol. Those protocols require students to be back full time this fall, but schools must continue social distancing and masks are still required.

Large Unit District Association Executive Director John Burkey said districts are excited to have children back full time for the coming semester. But, he said that doesn’t mesh with guidance to continue socially distancing in schools as the rest of the state is in Phase 5 of the governor’s reopening plan with no capacity restrictions.

“We’re just wanting to mesh not only with our guidance for schools, but mesh the guidance with the rest of what’s going on in Illinois,” Burkey told WMAY.

The Illinois State Board of Education has not returned messages seeking comment.

In districts such as Springfield that have some schools starting their balanced calendar in less than three weeks, the time crunch is clear.

Springfield District 186 Superintendent Jennifer Gill said waiting for clarity on COVID-19 guidance is taking away from focusing on education

“We’ve gone in a short time here in just a year of really having our accountability system to be more about attendance and graduation rates and test scores to now mitigations and whether we’re following those,” Gill said.

Burkey said it isn’t just how to handle in-person education with social distancing, but it’s also about getting guidance and proper resources in place for any remote learning.

“That homebound education provision is not nearly as robust as what full remote learning is and so we’re just really worried about kids missing a significant amount of school,” Burkey said.

Pritzker on Tuesday, at an unrelated event in Springfield, said state agencies are in talks with each other and with the CDC.

“And so we’ll provide guidance as soon as we have all the available information we can give you,” Pritzker said. “There will not be complete certainty no matter what we do because COVID is not over yet.”

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