What options do IL schools have for remote learning?

As many districts around the state have had to take an adaptive pause after or for the first week back at school post-winter break, we are seeing lots of confusion from parents about whether ISBE needs to approve this or not, and whether districts can make this decision on their own. Some parents have told us their district has said it’s up to ISBE, which is not accurate. And Chicago Public Schools continues to tell parents the district is not currently authorized by law to do districtwide remote learning.

According to ISBE guidance on this, school districts should first consult with their local health department, and ‘[i]f in discussions with the local health department, it is determined that an adaptive pause is needed, remote learning days must be offered for the duration of the adaptive pause.” Districts also have the ability to use their e-learning days or to provide remote schooling for subsets of families rather than all students.

Also from ISBE guidance:

If a district has to adaptively pause this school year to prevent COVID-19 transmission, can the district provide remote learning? 

Yes. In fact, a district must provide remote learning during an adaptive pause. The decision to enter into an adaptive pause must be made in consultation with the local health department.

Can a district utilize its remote learning plan from last school year to implement the Section 10-30 remote learning requirement in school year 2021-22? 

Yes. The requirement for a remote learning plan under Section 10-30 is satisfied as long as the plan is adopted by the district superintendent, posted on the district’s website, and periodically reviewed and amended, as needed, to ensure the plan meets the needs of all students. A district’s remote learning plan must provide for five hours of a combination of instruction and schoolwork. 

Our goal of sharing this is not to imply that all districts in IL should be on adaptive pause. Safety mitigations vary greatly from district to district, as do case positivity rates, class sizes, general availability of substitutes, which impacts the level of staffing in a school, all of which impact the ability for schools to run effectively and safely right now. This is a decision that the General Assembly and ISBE have put in the hands of school districts to make, and ISBE recommends it be made in consultation with their local health department. 

Also note that under the Governor’s current disaster declaration

“The Illinois State Board of Education is directed to recommend, and, as appropriate, take necessary actions to address any impact to learning associated with the present public health emergency and to continue to alleviate any barriers to the use of remote learning duress the effect of this proclamation that exist in the Illinois School Code, 105 ILCS 5/1 1 et. seq.”

We’ve tracked 29 districts plus a number of CPS charter schools that have already made a brief switch to remote learning due to covid outbreaks leading to insufficient staff to keep schools open and a large number of students out sick in many places.  

Update on CPS situation: Things we’ve learned in the past couple of days

Negotiations continued this weekend with no resolution, and one of the biggest sticking points is still how to test kids. The CTU wants to do an opt-out testing program that would impact 10% of students each week, but the mayor is insistent on keeping the opt-in program, where families have to sign up online instead of being notified and then choosing to opt out. 

WBEZ: A fight over COVID 19  testing is a barrier to a deal needed to restart CPS

We shared info about opt-out testing last week: Getting the facts straight on covid testing in schools

And the Sun-Times’ talked to our director Cassie Creswell about our research on schools using an opt out procedure, and confirmed with an associate dean for law and health sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago law school that there is no legal issue with doing so:

Chicago Sun-Times: Fight over testing of students, whether CPS disregarded governor's offer of help at heart of dispute with Chicago Teachers Union

Twenty-seven Chicago area state legislators issued a statement Friday supporting an adaptive pause in CPS and ramping up of covid mitigation measures in order to make a safe return to classrooms. On Saturday, Governor Pritzker announced that he had secured 350K rapid tests for CPS and that the district could also join the SHIELD testing program that is serving much of the state’s schools already.

We hope that a safe plan is agreed upon soon to allow students to have some instruction. No matter what date the parties agree to go back to in-school in person will be, it is critical that better safety mitigations are adopted. 

If you don’t want the mask mandate lifted in IL schools, sign these petitions! 

Attorney Tom Devore is still in court trying to lift the mask mandate in IL schools. He has filed a class-action suit claiming to represent the majority of IL parents. A hearing in the case was held last week to certify all Illinois parents as a class in the lawsuit and asking for a temporary injunction on the mask requirement in schools.

Pantagraph Judge hears arguments on COVID lawsuits against Illinois schools with no decision in sight

Parents have created petitions to show that many parents in IL are not ready to lift the mask mandate. If you agree, sign this now:

Sign petition: Illinois Residents Support Masks in Schools

You can also continue to sign and share this petition that’s been circulating since earlier this fall:

Sign petition: Dismiss Lawsuit to Force Children to Be Exposed to COVID-19 in IL Schools