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Illinois Education Association releases statement on safe in-person school instruction

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (HOI) -- The Illinois Education Association President is encouraging school districts that are planning to have in-person instruction this semester.

Their encouragement is to meet safely, or consider remote learning.

“The Illinois Education Association believes, as do health experts, that it would be best for students to be learning in an in-person school environment when at all possible," said IEA President Kathi Griffin. "In these times of global pandemic due to the novel coronavirus, however, the health and safety of our students and staff should be the primary concern and focus of all communities throughout our state and across the nation. No one wants to return to school more than those who have chosen education as their profession, but it is also professional educators who understand better than anyone the impact a contagious disease can have on a school population," she added.

In regards to a return to in-person learning in a school environment, every district should have, as a bare minimum, an articulated policy with respect to at least the following items:

  • face coverings;
  • social distancing -- this includes a plan for classrooms, shared spaces, and buses;
  • a formal cleaning schedule for employed personnel;
  • adequate and appropriate cleaning supplies for staff cleaning and for student and staff hygiene;
  • and, provision of appropriate personal protective equipment for all staff.

The statement goes on to say that all policies regarding health and safety should be in compliance with the American Academy of Pediatricians, the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Illinois State Board of Education guidance.

It adds that educators should advocate for districts to have enforceable rules and policies which have been clearly told to students, staff, and families. That should include both the policy and plan for enforcement of the policy should infractions occur. Educators should require guidance from the district on how they will enforce the policy prior to the opening of school and that guidance should also be clearly stated for staff, students and families.

Guidance from the district should include a plan to:

  • notify students, staff and parents regarding their COVID-19 health and safety policies and enforceability;
  • apply the policy and enforce rules where student/staff safety is concerned.

The statement ends by saying all educational institutions must meet the applicable Occupational Safety and Health Administration health and safety requirement to provide a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to the employees.”

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