Local school districts talk masks, regional superintendents weigh in on fall plans

Health News

PEORIA COUNTY, Ill. (WMBD)– The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) will provide public K-12 districts in the state with 2.5 million cloth face masks. It’s allowing K-12 schools to provide a face mask to all students and staff.

Central Illinois school districts are having conversations about what the fall will look like.

The regional superintendent of schools for Peoria County said some districts are using personalized ways to incorporate masks.

It’s part of our school supplies for back to school for fall, but this new way that we’re going to do school is that masks will be included and so either family will provide that or our schools are looking at having masks in stock and having them in their offices for any child that needs it, or that forgets, or a staff member so that we make sure that we’re all staying safe. There are different masks out there that you can get with school logo’s on them, or even school photos and their names on them. There are masks that are clear so that you can see people’s faces. There are a lot of different options out there and schools are looking at all of them.

Beth Crider, Regional Superintendent of Schools | Peoria County Regional Office of Education

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) released a statement saying face shields cannot be used instead of face masks when school returns this fall, as they are not effective against the spread of COVID-19.

ISBE wrote, “face shields have not been deemed effective for source control and are only to be used when other methods of protection are not available or appropriate.”

Everybody is really at a point where they’re trying to get some flexibility around the…type of face covering. There was a real interest in allowing face shields for kids who have breathing issues or from an instructional standpoint students that need to see a teacher moving their lips or enunciation, and in the same regard, teachers need to see students when it comes to like speech and language services and things like that. So when the state board and IDPH came out with the revisions saying that face shields were not acceptable that’s created a lot of push back.

Mark Jontry, Regional Superintendent | Regional Office of Education #17

“Classroom learning provides necessary opportunities for our students to learn, socialize, and grow. The benefits of in-person instruction can’t be overstated,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Today ISBE, IBHE, and ICCB are issuing guidance that will serve as baseline public health requirements and expectations for the return of in-person learning this fall in P-12 schools and higher education, including all public school districts, non-public schools, colleges, and universities. In close consultation with IDPH, infectious disease experts at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and other public health professionals, the guidance focuses on keeping students, teachers, and families healthy and safe. It recognizes that Illinois is a diverse state, and school districts and institutions of higher education across Illinois will face unique challenges in how they’ll operate within their communities.”

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) received $569 million in federal funding from the CARES Act for K-12 education, approximately $512 million of which will go directly to school districts to address local needs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. IBSE will use the remaining $54.1 million to provide additional funding to schools in six categories: laptops and tablets, internet connectivity, virtual coaching for teachers, professional development, and support for entities who cannot receive direct funds due to ineligibility for Title I.

The state said each school district will determine how to implement the guidance based on its unique student enrollment, school facilities, staffing, transportation, and technological capacity. ISBE strongly encourages schools and districts to provide in-person instruction for all students, especially those under age 13, to ensure children have rich instructional environments.

Everybody has been in a position where they’ve been surveying their parents to find out their level of comfort with sending their kids wearing a mask and by-in-large, most of the districts are getting a pretty positive response.”

Mark Jontry, Regional Superintendent | Regional Office of Education #17

Masks are going to be a part of our daily learning experience. It helps us to get back to school and to try to be safe and so now is the time to start practicing. Help your child pick out their mask. Practice during the day. Use them when you travel and when you go places. Anything to help [students] be ready for what’s going to be needed for school in the fall.

Beth Crider, Regional Superintendent of Schools | Peoria County Regional Office of Education

The IDPH requirements for schools to reopen in Phase 4 are:

  • Require the use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including face coverings;
  • Prohibit more than 50 individuals from gathering in one space;
  • Require social distancing whenever possible;
  • Conduct symptom screenings and temperature checks or require self-certification that individuals entering school buildings are symptom-free; and
  • Increase school-wide cleaning and disinfection.
  • Require social distancing be observed as much as possible;
  • Require that schools conduct symptom screenings and temperature checks or require that individuals self-certify that they are free of symptoms before entering school buildings; and
  • Require an increase in school-wide cleaning and disinfection.

Crider said Tuesday parents need to stay on top of guidelines for masks as it can change between now and fall.

These regulations, this guidance, the mandate even could change. This is a constant evolution between now and the start of school so [parents] got to keep an eye on it.

Beth Crider, Regional Superintendent of Schools | Peoria County Regional Office of Education

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