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Illinois State Board Of Education Backs Plan To Require In-Person Learning For Schools Next Fall

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Illinois State Board of Education on Wednesday unanimously approved a resolution supporting a requirement for in-person classes starting next fall, with limited exceptions allowing remote or hybrid learning.

Board spokeswoman Jackie Matthews said the resolution itself does not change state policy regarding in-person or remote learning. She said State Superintendent Carmen Ayala is expected to issue an enforceable declaration mandating in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year after the current school year ends.

"This plan begins to transition us toward a future in which we are no longer under a gubernatorial disaster proclamation and the pandemic-related remote learning statutes no longer apply. I am deeply grateful for the efforts of every Illinoisan that have gotten us to this point," Ayala said in a statement.

The resolution supports a declaration that, "Beginning with the 2021-22 school year, all schools must resume fully in-person learning for all
student attendance days, provided that ... remote instruction be made available for students who are not eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine and are under a quarantine order by a local public health department or the Illinois Department of Public Health."

Matthews said students who are both ineligible for the vaccine -- largely students under age 12 -- and under a quarantine order would be required to learn remotely.

"This resolution was in response to feedback from the field. Superintendents have asked for clarity about the scope of remote learning next school year so that they can make critical budgeting and staffing decisions right now. We encourage school districts and families to use this as an indication of what next school year most likely will look like, if public health conditions remain favorable. We will continue to listen to feedback from educators, health officials and parents and guardians of students," Matthews said in an email.

ISBE is encouraging parents to get their eligible children vaccinated over the summer in preparation for a return to in-person classes in the fall. The board also is encouraging school districts to host vaccination clinics for eligible students and families.

Matthews said the superintendent's declaration would still allow schools to provide hybrid or remote learning options for individual students, if that best meets an individual student's needs.

"For example, districts could permit remote learning for families that include students who are ineligible to be vaccinated and live in a household with an immunocompromised individual. School districts that choose to do so can create local policies under those sections of the School Code," Matthews said.

Chicago Public Schools officials already had begun planning a return to fully in-person classes in the fall before the ISBE vote, but has said it will continue to provide a remote option for students who are unable to return to classrooms.

CPS has been using a hybrid model for classes since it reopened school buildings earlier this year, starting with pre-K and special education cluster students in January, elementary students in March, and high schoolers in April. Students whose parents opted for in-person learning are in classrooms two to four days a week, but the majority of CPS students are still learning entirely from home.

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