Districts with in-person classes want Illinois education officials to follow CDC guidance


Superintendents from school districts across the state that have had in-person classes since the fall want the state’s public health officials to follow the CDC guidance.

With COVID-19 concerns, there’s quarantine, where a student and the household must stay away from others if there's a positive test or they've been exposed to someone who is COVID-19 positive. Then there’s exclusion, where symptoms like a cough could keep a student and their household from school pending a doctor's note or negative test.

Casey-Westfield school Superintendent Jon Julius said the guidance makes it a struggle for students who want to be in class and the parents who have to find childcare or stay home.

“I’m just kind of upset at the [Illinois Department of Public Health] right now, they’re not going with the CDC recommendation to allow us to have shorter quarantine periods and it’s just a struggle,” Julius said.

North of Springfield, Porta Superintendent Matthew Brue told WMAY that guidance needs to change after the holidays.

“This is extremely tough on families and in most cases they don’t get it,” Brue said. “We quarantine a classroom and we still have that one positive case. The other 20 students won’t have COVID.”

Despite the CDC lowering the number of days to quarantine from 14 to ten, a spokesperson with the Illinois Department of Public Health said the agency does not recommend the CDC’s shortened quarantine options.

Julius said being close to Indiana with more lax restrictions makes it difficult to accept Illinois’ recommendations.

“That’s very frustrating for our community to watch them do a lot of normal life things that we cannot do and it’s hard to understand how we’re so much different just 30 minutes away,” Julius said.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has said mask and spacing allows schools to remain open for in-person instruction, though there are some districts in the state that have gone remote.

In Illinois, Julius and Brue’s districts are in the minority with in-person education. Less than 9 percent of Illinois’ public school students are in districts with in-person learning. Around 30.5 percent of Illinois students are in a blended model. The rest are full remote.

Even with sports, Illinois High School Association Executive Director Craig Anderson said other states allow their students to take.

“While there’ve been some situations where teams have had to step away and quarantine maybe a short time, generally there’s teams that have been able to move forward and be successful with it,” Anderson said.

Julius, Brue and Anderson all recognized the long term damage the lack of quality in-person education and extracurricular activities will have on some of Illinois’ students.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said local school districts should make their own decisions on in-person learning following state guidelines. While the IHSA initially was going to allow for local districts to determine if they can have basketball this winter, the group reversed its position to follow the Pritzker administration’s prohibition of the sport because of COVID-19 concerns.

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