Frustrated by what they describe as a lack of details about what COVID-19 guidelines will look like at schools next fall, a contingent of school district superintendents on Wednesday implored state education officials to deliver a plan by early summer.
“It might feel like it’s early in the summer, but the planning has to happen now,” said Wheaton-Warrenville Community Unit School District 200 Superintendent Jeff Schuler, one of several suburban school administrators who shared their concerns during an Illinois State Board of Education meeting Wednesday.
“The sooner we know, the better to plan, so we’re hoping you can provide us with information as soon as possible,” Schuler said.
Indian Prairie School District 204 Superintendent Adrian Talley agreed, saying officials at the Aurora-based school district had to spend around $200,000 to rent tents during the 2020-21 school year to ensure students were socially distanced during lunch.
The state’s COVID-19 plans for schools in the fall need to be clearly articulated by the state immediately to avoid school districts footing the bill for unnecessary expenditures, and to eliminate the prospect of “unneeded furniture, and unneeded angst,” Talley added.
Several parents also expressed their disappointment with the school board and state health department’s COVID-19 guidelines for schools, lambasting the mask mandates for students, contact tracing and quarantines as “illogical” and in violation of “parental rights.”
But ISBE Superintendent Carmen Ayala said that since the arrival of the pandemic, the health and safety of students and staff have been the top priorities, and officials are committed to “providing the best information possible,” while also continuing “to follow the science and data.”
“We’ll try to put out guidance as quickly and as soon as we can,” Ayala said.
While the state’s full reopening June 11 included the easing of mask and social distancing recommendations at many venues for those who are fully vaccinated, masks are still required indoors at schools along with other mitigations.
“ISBE continues to follow the guidance of public health officials,” spokeswoman Jackie Matthews said in a Wednesday statement.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Illinois Department of Public Health has been clear that they are constantly taking the latest science into account to keep Illinoisans safe,” Matthews said.