Gov. JB Pritzker has greenlighted a return to school this fall, with everyone in masks, but it leaves open the possibility of local districts and private schools to create their own plans. The state’s guidelines “strongly encourage” schools to provide in-person instruction, especially for students under 13.
Some parents aren’t convinced.
While a majority of 1,193 parents surveyed in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio by the Susan B. Meister Child Health Evaluation and Research Center at the University of Michigan told researchers they support sending kids back to school in the fall, one-third said they have cause for concern, a news release from the University of Michigan said.
Twenty-one percent said they weren’t sure yet about school attendance plans. Many also told researchers they are waiting to see how the COVID-19 pandemic evolves and to hear more about their local school’s plans, the release said.
“If the schools here decide to open, then that will mean we are trending in a favorable direction as far as the virus is concerned. I trust the local school districts to make the best decision based on their staff/cleaning/knowledge of the situation,” a parent from Illinois wrote in response to the survey, the release said.
The survey found most parents supported decreasing the number of kids on buses, including daily temperature checks, a mix of online and in-person classes, regular testing and masks for older students and staff but not as in favor for younger students.
However, researchers found little support for closing playgrounds and canceling extracurricular activities.
“Families are facing a challenging decision regarding whether to send their children to school for in-person classes in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says lead author Kao-Ping Chua, a pediatrician and researcher at Michigan Medicine C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
“On the one hand, sending children to school could increase the risk of COVID-19 among children and family members. On the other hand, children who don’t return to in-person school may experience disruptions in their education. Some families simply don’t have a choice because they need to go to work,” he said in the release.
Illinois is planning to provide students and staff in K-12 schools with 2.5 million cloth masks as part of Pritzker’s reopening plan, which was developed in collaboration with 56 educators, superintendents, social workers, nurses and other stakeholders from across the state.
The guidelines also prohibit more than 50 people from gathering in one space, require social distancing when possible, require symptom screening and temperature checks or self-certification that anyone entering the school buildings are symptom free, and increased schoolwide cleaning and disinfection.
“Classroom learning provides necessary opportunities for our students to learn, socialize, and grow. The benefits of in-person instruction can’t be overstated,” Pritzker said in his announcement.
The Illinois State Board of Education plans to use $512 million in federal funding from the CARES Act to help schools respond to the pandemic. A remaining $54.1 million will provide additional funding to schools for laptops and tablets, internet connectivity, virtual coaching for teachers, professional development, and support for entities who cannot receive direct funds due to ineligibility for Title I.
“This fall will not be ‘business as usual’ in more ways than one. Our students will return to us transformed and hungry for knowledge that contextualizes current events. I urge schools to use summer to readjust curricula to honor these historic times and to continue to be diligent in following safety protocols,” State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala said in the governor’s announcement.
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