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Schools Will Open For In-Person Classes This Fall. But Are The New Safety Protocols Enough?

DeKalb High School
Spencer Tritt
DeKalb High School

TheState guidelines that were announced Tuesday for schools to resume in-person classes this fall need more work. That’s according to one of Illinois’ biggest teachers unions.

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The pandemic put schools across the country in a tough position. They know many don’t consider the quality of e-learning equal to that of in-person instruction. But, even with new in-person safety protocols, some parents say they aren’t going to feel comfortable sending their kids to school.

Students should expect to be wearing masks. That’s one part of new guidelines, partly because of how difficult social distancing is in a school environment, no matter the grade level.

Kathi Griffin is the president of the Illinois Education Association. She says educators have been working with the State to craft the plan, but they still need more clarity.

For one, what do you do for high-risk students and staff? She says schools need more PPE & support staff -- like nurses.

“We need to make sure that we have protocols put in place so that if somebody is showing symptoms that they have a place to be in, and all of that has to be taken care of,” Griffin said.

Griffin also said students are going to need emotional support once they go back. And the plans need to consider special needs students and others who may not be able to wear a mask.

She says the Illinois State Board of Education has to set overall guidelines that allow room for districts to make changes specific to their needs.

“What's going to happen in Rockford is going to be very different from what's going to happen in Alton,” said Griffin.

And she said the State also needs to listen to other school staff members like cooks, bus drivers and custodians.

“If we want to have a plan that's going to be impactful and effective, all of those voices have to be part of the discussion in order for any plan to be truly successful,” she said.

Districts may also have to offer blended options, with some kids e-learning and others taking in-person classes.

Griffin and the Illinois Education Association says the current state guidelines are a start but need more work before they can be implemented at schools.

The State Board says it will continue to work with educators and public health officials to revise plans before students go back to school.

Copyright 2021 WNIJ Northern Public Radio. To see more, visit WNIJ Northern Public Radio.

Peter joins WNIJ as a graduate of North Central College. He is a native of Sandwich, Illinois.