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Illinois teachers' union releases guidance for return to in-person classes this fall

The Illinois Federation of Teachers released the following guidance for school districts to consider as they fine tune their reopening plans for the fall

ST. LOUIS — The union representing teachers in Illinois said it wants schools to return to in-person learning this fall. However, if there isn’t a coronavirus safety plan in place, the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) wants to begin the school year the way it ended – with distance learning and online classes.

“We believe that some types of in-person instruction can be achieved with health and safety mitigation, but absent a practical safety plan that includes the guidance below and incorporates a clear line of responsibility and enforcement, we call for the 2020-2021 school year to begin with remote learning,” IFT said in a news release.

The teachers’ union expressed concern about an “unstable” COVID-19 positivity rate in Illinois.

“The rate is currently unstable and, in some regions, clearly on the rise,” IFT wrote in its release Monday. “This trend indicates that surges of COVID-19 spread, infections and deaths are still a very real threat, as acknowledged by both Governor JB Pritzker and Dr. Ngozi Ezike in their statements on July 15.”

IFT released the following guidance for school districts to consider as they fine tune their reopening plans for the fall.

Safe reopening measures for educators, staff members

IFT wants each district, college and university to have:

  • All educational institutions working with their unions now to negotiate safe and effective learning plans; parents and students should be partners in these community discussions
  • A sustainable school day or course model that incorporates blended learning, which allows for appropriate social distancing and does not exceed 15 students in the same classroom at one time; or on campuses, a room that can adequately accommodate all individuals using CDC recommendations on social distancing.
  • The right of educators to determine the best mode of instruction
  • A clear safety plan that includes enforcement and accountability of the required IDPH and CDC guidelines for schools and campuses
  • Temperature checks and/or health screenings for all students, staff, and visitors prior to entry
  • A required two-week quarantine when a student or staff tests positive for COVID-19 or has a high-risk exposure to COVID-19, with special paid sick leave provided by the employer
  • Contact tracing notifications to students, families, and staff when a positive test occurs for a person who is known to have been in a school or campus building
  • Coronavirus testing availability—especially for people in rural communities.
  • Comprehensive plans for ensuring a safe and clean physical environment in schools and on campuses, including the remediation of poor ventilation systems
  • Employer accommodations for high-risk students and employees

Safe reopening for families

“COVID-19 lifted the veil on the disparities that exist among our students and families, especially our Black and brown students,” IFT wrote in its release.

The union said it wants stability and equity for in order for students and families to thrive. In order to do so, the union called for the following:

  • Broadband access and devices need to be provided for all students, in any academic institution, so they can participate in remote learning as needed.
  • As we are readying for a safe return to school, we must prioritize the students and families with the greatest need for in-person instruction to return first.
  • Families need access to free or affordable health care now.
  • All academic institutions must engage in trauma-informed practices and crisis intervention.
  • Evictions and foreclosures need to be halted during these unstable times.

Childcare for parents

The teachers’ union acknowledged that, while a combination of in-person and remote learning can offer a safe path for students and staff, it would create problems for parents who need to find childcare.

“For this reason, we ask that all educational institutions work to identify the families that need childcare and work to provide opportunities with local partners and organizations in helping fill gaps during the instructional day,” IFT wrote in its release.

RELATED: Edwardsville school district announces reopening plans

You can read the full plan, along with the bullet points of concerns outlined by the Illinois Federation of Teachers, in the document below.

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