* Tribune editorial…
A bill moving through the Illinois House and Senate in Springfield has private schools worried. It establishes state-mandated “metrics” that schools must meet before they can offer in-person learning. The concern: The legislation could make it harder for schools to reopen this fall.
The mandated “metrics” were in the introduced version…
In-person instruction at schools. The Department shall establish metrics for school districts and public institutions of higher education to use during the public health emergency in determining if the district or institution may safely conduct in-person instruction or if the district or institution must implement remote learning or blended remote learning to keep students and staff safe. .
That language caused an uproar last month.
* So the original bill was amended to delete the offending “metrics” language and to change the bill’s focus…
The Department shall establish requirements by rule for providing in-person instruction at nonpublic schools and public schools that include, but are not limited to, personal protective equipment, cleaning and hygiene, social distancing, occupancy limits, symptom screening, and on-site isolation protocols and shall disseminate information about those requirements to nonpublic schools and public schools with the assistance of the Illinois State Board of Education. The authority to enforce the rules adopted pursuant to this Section lies with the Department and local departments of public health. Upon receipt of a complaint that a school cannot or is not complying with the Department’s rules under this Section, the Department or local public health department shall investigate the complaint within 45 days after receiving the complaint. If upon investigation, a school is found to be in violation of the rules adopted under this Section, the Department has the authority to take the appropriate action necessary to promote the health or protect the safety of students, staff, and the public, including, but not limited to, closure of a classroom, gym, library, lunch room, or any other school space until such time that the Department determines that the violation or violations have been remedied. Nothing in this Section limits the authority or requirements of the Department or local public health departments. All complaints and related documents shall be maintained and are subject to applicable disclosure requirements under the Freedom of Information Act. […]
In order to provide in-person instruction, nonpublic schools and public schools must follow the requirements adopted by rule by the Department of Public Health under Section 2310-705 of the Department of Public Health Powers and Duties Law of the Civil Administrative Code.
In other words, the proposal went from proactive to reactive and basically just codifies what has been happening in Illinois for close to a year. Also, notice that, despite the editorial, local public health departments are involved.
* Back to the editorial…
Many private schools, including most in the Archdiocese of Chicago and other faith-based schools across the state, worked with local health officials last summer and fall to figure out how to safely offer in-person learning when many public school buildings remained closed due to COVID-19. […]
But it also removes local control from all school districts which have shown, particularly during the pandemic, that a one-size-fits-all approach would be the wrong one. Each district, each community, had the ability to shape how and when their students returned to school. This would change that.
While each district and private school has been allowed to set their own specific rules, they all had to follow basic guidelines set forth by the state. There was even a lawsuit over this…
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health have won an injunction against three school districts who said they did not need to mandate face masks for in-person learning this year.
The Archdiocese of Chicago’s rules were primarily based on state rules with additional guidance from the city’s public health department.
The editorial board needs to get off Facebook.
*** UPDATE *** The governor was asked about the bill today and he said work is still being done on the legislation. Again, you’d think the largest newspaper in the state would pick up a phone before getting so far over its skis on something like this.