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Restore Illinois Guidance for Schools

By Brian Schwartz posted 06-24-2020 08:43


Updated November 18, 2020 at 10:30 am

Effective Friday, November 20, all regions in Illinois will move into Tier 3 Resurgence Mitigation requirements.  The Tier 3 mitigations do not generally apply to schools, with the exception of sports. A complete list of requirements that school districts are required to adhere to follows. 

  • Use of appropriate PPE, including face coverings is required.
  • For educational activities, no more than 50 individuals gathering in one space.
  • No indoor group sporting or recreational activities and locker rooms must be closed. Outdoor sports and recreation are limited to 10 persons with social distancing and PPE.
  • Social distancing must be observed, as much as possible.
  • Schools must conduct symptom screenings and temperature checks.
  • Requires an increase in schoolwide cleaning and disinfection.
  • Schools must continue to offer a remote learning option.
For more information on Tier 3 Resurgence Mitigation requirements, click HERE.

    Public Health Interim Guidance for Pre-K-12 Schools and Day Care Programs1 for Addressing COVID-19 New 8-18-20

    Adaptive Pause and Metrics: Interim School Guidance for Local Health Departments  New 8-18-20

    Decision Tree for Symptomatic Individuals in Pre-K, K-12 Schools and Day Care Programs  Updated 8-21-20
    For ISBE's Fall 2020 Learning Recommendations, click HERE.  

    For ISBE Part 3 Transition Guidance, click HEREISBE Webinar Presentation - ISBE Webinar Recording - FAQs 

    For IDPH FAQs for when students test positive for COVID-19, wearing face masks, cleaning, etc., click HERE.  Updated 8-21-220

    For specific information on Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan, click HERE

    For webinarMaking Difficult but Effective Curriculum and Instruction Choices in the Age of COVID with Heidi Hayes Jacobs, click HERE.

    For IPA Remote Learning Resources, click

    For Mental Health Supports, click HERE

    For additional COVID-19 Information:
    ISBE COVID-19 Page
    IDPH COVID-19 Page
    CDC Guidance for Schools, Daycares, and Youth Programs
    Ed Week Coverage of COVID-19 and Schools

    Below are frequently asked questions and answers to school building-level issues.

    Liability and Immunity

    If my school Board votes not to follow the Governor's facemask mandate, can I be held personally liable if a student becomes ill with COVID-19?  New 7-15-20

    No.  Provided that you are following the policies of the school board or the directives of the superintendent, the school district is obligated to defend you and hold you harmless if there is a lawsuit.

    What are ISBE's mandated requirements for in-person instruction during COVID?  REVISED 11-18-20

    Safety measures that are required by ISBE are as follows: appropriate PPE, increased cleaning/disinfecting, social distancing, no more than 50 individuals gathering in one space, no group sporting and recreational activities, closure of locker rooms, outdoor sports and recreation are limited to 10 persons, symptom screenings/temperature checks, and the option for remote learning. 

    What actions should be taken by students/staff sent home with COVID-like symptoms? New 8-18-20

    • All students and staff sent home with COVID-like symptoms should be diagnostically tested. Students and staff should remain home from school until they receive the test results.

    • Students and staff who are confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 must complete 10 calendar days of isolation from the date of first symptom onset and be fever-free for 24 hours without use of fever-reducing medications and other symptoms have improved before returning
    to school.

    • Students and staff returning to school after experiencing COVID-like symptoms but being diagnosed with a non-COVID illness must meet the criteria for returning to school for the illness with which they have been diagnosed. At a minimum, the individual must be fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and have had no diarrhea or vomiting in the previous 24 hours. Other diseases have specific criteria for when a student or staff member can return to school . Follow school health policies and communicable disease guidance for those illnesses. A doctor’s note documenting the alternative diagnosis or a negative COVID-19 test result should accompany a student or staff member returning to school with an alternative diagnosis after experiencing COVID-like symptoms. Schools and districts should assist families in locating free or reduced cost medical clinics for assistance where needed.

    • Students and staff with COVID-like symptoms who do not get tested for COVID-19 and who do not provide a healthcare provider’s note documenting an alternative diagnosis, must complete 10 calendar days of isolation from the date of first symptom onset and be fever-free for 24 hours without use of fever-reducing medications and other symptoms have improved before returning to school.

    • Medical evaluation and COVID-19 diagnostic testing is strongly recommended for all persons with COVID-like symptoms.


    Will federal testing be required during 2020-21? New 9-4-20

    ISBE has received a letter from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos indicating that schools should be prepared to administer federally required assessments in spring 2021. In the letter, Secretary DeVos states, “it is now our expectation that states will, in the interest of students, administer summative assessments during the 2020-2021 school year, consistent with the requirements of the law and following the guidance of local health officials."  As a result, waivers are not anticipated this school year. 

    Are school safety drills required during 2020-21?  New 9-4-20

    if a school district is using only remote learning, drills may be delayed until students return to in-person instruction. However, districts providing in-person instruction or a hybrid model of both in-person and remote learning must still follow the provisions of the School Safety Drill Act. According to the School Safety Drill Act, drills shall be conducted at each school building that houses school children. That means that schools must continue to meet statutory requirements for conducting safety drills, including evacuation, bus evacuation, law enforcement, and severe weather/shelter in place drills, and should implement these drills with COVID-19 safety measures in place. Multiple drills may need to occur and drills may take more time to allow for social distancing.

    Under Phase 4 are individuals in a school building required to wear a face-covering?  

    Yes.  As required by the Illinois Department of Public Health, except when eating and during band, face coverings must be worn at all times in school buildings, even when social distancing is maintained.  All individuals in a school building must wear face coverings, unless they have a medical contraindication, are under 2 years of age, have trouble breathing or are unable to remove the face covering without assistance.

    Is there guidance on the requirement that school districts conduct symptom checks?

    Schools and districts must conduct temperature and symptom screenings or require self-certification and verification for all staff, students, and visitors entering school buildings. Individuals who have a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit / 38 degrees Celsius or currently known symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, fatigue, muscle and body aches, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, congestion or runny nose, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, may not enter buildings. Individuals who exbibit symptoms should be referred to a medical provider for evaluation, treatment, and information about when they can return to school.

    Can schools and districts utilize self-certification to verify that individuals in a school building are symptom free?

    Yes. Schools and districts can require individuals to self-certify that they are fever and symptom free before entering a school building, in lieu of conducting symptom and
    temperature checks at the school building. Self-certification could consist of a simple electronic form that an individual must complete on each day that they will enter a school
    building. A self-certification may not be completed at the beginning of the year for the entire year.

    Are face coverings required when individuals are outside?

    Face coverings are not required outside if social distancing can be maintained.

    Can staff remove their face coverings while alone in their classroom or office? New 8-17-20

    Teachers and staff who are alone in their classroom or offices should be allowed to remove their face covering if they are in the room alone and the doors are closed.

    Regarding capacity limits, what does "one space" mean?

    One space includes one bus, one classroom, one area of a hallway, and one gymnasium.  Capacity limits do not apply to an entire school building.

    Can large rooms such as cafeterias, libraries, and gymnasiums be divided up into multiple spaces using room dividers?
    Individual rooms and spaces must limit capacity to 50 people with social distancing. However, larger spaces may be partitioned with fire code approved floor to ceiling dividers to create additional rooms, each with a capacity limit of 50 people with social distancing. Large spaces like indoor arenas and gymnasiums may not be partitioned to allow for more than 50 participants or spectators at events.

    How should schools and districts handle individuals who refuse to wear face coverings?

    It is recommended that schools and districts update policies to require the wearing a face covering while in school buildings and handle violations in the same manner as other
    similar policy violations.

    Can individuals in a school building wear a face shield instead of a face covering?

    According to IDPH, 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. In cases where individuals need facial visualization for instruction and communication, IDPH recommends video instruction to promote social distancing. If video is instruction is not available or appropriate, face shields may be used. Heightened attention and adherence to 6-foot social distancing is critical for individuals using face shields. Examples of limited situations when face shields may be necessary if video instruction is not possible, include for teachers of English Learners or world languages, whose students may need to see their mouths form words to facilitate language acquisition.

    In cases where individuals have a medical contraindication to using face coverings, face shields may be utilized, understanding their limitations and the heightened need for strict adherence to social distancing. ISBE recommends that schools review information, such as a physician’s note, documenting the medical contraindication for any individual who is not able to wear a face covering.

    Can parents opt-in to full remote instruction for students?

    This is a local decision.  ISBE recommends that districts include a policy in their Remote or Blended Remote Learning Plan.  School districts should also consider planning for remote instruction for students who are medically fragile, at higher risk of severe illness, or who live with individuals at higher risk of severe illness.  Students receiving remote instruction count as present for attendance purposes.

    What are the requirements for remote learning plans and blended remote learning plans?

    School districts have considerable autonomy in developing remote and blended remote learning plans. In accordance with State law, each remote and blended remote learning day plan must address the following: (i) accessibility of the remote instruction to all students enrolled in the district; (ii) if applicable, a requirement that the remote learning day and blended remote learning day activities reflect State learning standards; (iii) a means for students to confer with an educator, as necessary; (iv) the unique needs of students in special populations, including, but not limited to, students eligible for special education, students who are English learners, students experiencing homelessness, and vulnerable student populations; (v) how the district will take attendance and monitor and verify each student's remote participation; and (vi) transitions from remote learning to on-site learning upon the State Superintendent's declaration that remote learning days or blended remote learning days are no longer deemed necessary.

    Is a school required to transition to remote instruction if an individual who was in the building tests positive for COVID-19?

    No. Only those individuals with close contact with someone who tested positive or who is suspected of having COVID-19 are required to self-quarantine for 14 days. The school
    should provide remote instruction to students who are self-quarantining, if they are well enough to engage in learning. Teachers and staff who are self-quarantining may continue
    to work remotely if they are well enough to do so.

    What is considered “close contact”?

    Close contact means the individual was within 6 feet of the individual who tested positive for COVID-19 or is suspected of having COVID-19 infection for more than 15 cumulative minutes.

    What is the procedure if a student were to show symptoms mid-day?

    Schools should provide a supervised quarantine space for students and staff who are experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms and may be awaiting evaluation and/or pickup.
    Students must never be left alone and must be supervised at all times while maintaining necessary precautions within the quarantine space. Judgment of nursing professionals or
    the administrator/designee (in the absence of a nurse) must determine who is placed in the quarantine space and the level of supervision (e.g., supervised by nurse or unlicensed
    personnel) required for persons within the quarantine space.

    What are the requirements for behind the wheel instruction during Phase 4?

    The following procedures must be followed: (1) only two students and one instructor per vehicle; (2) face coverings must be worn, unless medically contraindicated; (3) eating and drinking in the vehicle is prohibited; (4) windows should be open whenever possible; (5) refrain from making any stops during the training that are not applicable to driver’s education to reduce the amount of time in the vehicle; (6) complete hand hygiene with soap and water or hand sanitizer, as appropriate, before and after driving and, at the minimum, upon completion; (7) hand sanitizer should be placed in each vehicle; (8) before and between use, school staff should clean and disinfect the steering wheel, door handles, seatbelt fastener, controls/dials that the driver would come in contact with, like keys; and (9) regular routine cleaning and disinfecting of the seats should be done.


    What accommodations have been made regarding food service for the 2020-21 school year?

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) extended four nationwide waivers for school year 2020-21, giving key flexibilities to school districts to provide meals to students with appropriate safety measures. When the new school year begins, school districts will return to participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), and Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) with the following initial flexibilities.

    Nationwide Waiver to Allow Non-Congregate Feeding in the Child Nutrition Programs: Under this waiver, sponsors can provide non-congregate meals during COVID-19-related operations. This will allow school districts to provide meals for students utilizing remote learning. Under normal circumstances, NSLP, SBP, and CACFP meals must be served in a congregate setting and must be consumed by participants on site.

    Nationwide Waiver to Allow Meal Service Time Flexibility in the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, and Child and Adult Care Food Program: Under this waiver, program operators may establish meal service times that support streamlined access to nutritious meals. This works in conjunction with the non-congregate feeding waiver to allow multiple meals to be picked up at one time. It also provide flexibility for serving meals due to scheduling issues (such as busing schedules due to number of riders, etc.) related to social distancing while learning on site.

    Nationwide Waivers to Allow Parents and Guardians to Pick Up Meals for Children: Under this waiver, program operators may distribute meals to a parent or guardian to take home to their children without the children being present in non-congregate delivery methods.

    Nationwide Waiver to Allow Meal Pattern Flexibility in the Child Nutrition Programs: Sponsors should continue to make every effort to serve meals that meet the meal pattern requirements and the nutrition standards to the greatest extent possible. However, the USDA and ISBE recognize that sponsors may experience challenges in meeting those requirements. Sponsors that are unable to meet the meal pattern requirements must submit a form to ISBE to report their circumstances and request a waiver. Waiver requests must be submitted on a weekly basis as needed. ISBE will approve use of this waiver on a case-by case basis.

    The USDA also issued a Nationwide Waiver to Allow Offer Versus Serve (OVS) Flexibility for Senior High Schools in the National School Lunch Program for School Year 2020-21. Generally, schools that participate in NSLP that serve Grades 9-12 are required to implement OVS, allowing older students to have a choice in the number of meal components selected for a reimbursable meal. This USDA waiver provides flexibility for all schools to package complete reimbursable meals for ease of distribution in non-congregate settings as well as altered on-site methods, such as meals in the classroom or other locations. This allows schools flexibility on how best to offer meal services to students.


    What resources are available for families to assist with remote instruction?

    ISBE has put together a comprehensive resource to share with families regarding remote learning. To access this resource, click HERE.

    Are DCFS mandated reporting requirements in effect during remote learning?

    Yes. For more information on student wellness and DCFS reporting obligations, click HERE.


    For additional federal guidance, click HERE.

    For additional Illinois guidance, click HERE


    Is the license renewal deadline extended for PELs that expire on June 30, 2020?

    Yes, all licenses issued by the State Board of Education that expire on June 30, 2020 and have not been renewed by the end of the 2020 renewal period shall be extended for one year and shall expire on June 30, 2021.  Individuals will be required to complete the Administrator Academy requirement during the one-year extension.

    How will teacher candidates complete their student teaching requirement if remote or blended learning continues this fall?

    Teacher candidates will be able to complete their required student teaching or equivalent experience remotely.

    If I was not able to complete a teacher evaluation this year, what is the teacher’s final summative rating?

    Teachers who did not receive an evaluation default to proficient. However, if an evaluation was not completed for a tenured teacher and that teacher received an “excellent” summative rating on his or her last evaluation, the teacher will default to “excellent.”

    What happens to a remediation plan for an unsatisfactory teacher?

    Remediation plans are suspended during remote learning. Except if the parties mutually agree otherwise and the agreement is in writing, any remediation plan that had been in place for more than 45 days prior to the suspension of in-person instruction shall resume when in-person instruction resumes and any remediation plan that had been in place for fewer than 45 days prior to the suspension of in-person instruction shall be discontinued and a new remediation period shall begin when in-person instruction resumes. The requirements of this paragraph apply regardless of whether they are included in a school district's teacher evaluation plan.

    What are the requirements for new professional staff members who have just graduated from an educator preparation program?

    For most programs, including teacher preparation programs, the student teaching and internship requirements are waived for new graduates. However, licensure tests, endorsement tests and other qualification tests are not waived. New graduates who are not able to take the applicable licensure, endorsement or other qualification test due to COVID-19 can apply to the Illinois State Board of Education for a “Short Term Approval.”

    For ISBE Guidance, click HERE.  

    What guidance has ISBE given for bus transportation? 

    Schools and districts should create procedures to assure compliance with all applicable expectations under state and federal guidelines. All individuals on a bus must wear a face covering, no more than 50 individuals should be on a bus at one time, and social distancing must be maintained to the greatest extent possible. Students must undergo symptom and temperature checks, which may include self-certification, before boarding a bus. 

    Have school bus driver permits been extended? 

    School Bus Driver Permits that expire between March 17, 2020, and July 31, 2020, have been extended until November 1, 2020.



    06-13-2020 08:38

    Hi, Michael, I'm not aware of any specific research, but I do know some districts are strongly considering temperature checks every morning.

    06-12-2020 13:46

    Is there research for or against the use of temp/symptom screening before entering a bus or school facility?