All Illinois students can return to in-person learning this fall, Pritzker says

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced Tuesday that all students across the state can return to class this fall and receive in-person instruction.

“Classroom learning provides necessary opportunities for our students to learn, socialize, and grow. The benefits of in-person instruction can’t be overstated,” Pritzker said in a statement.

The return to the classroom, Pritzker says, will of course entail new safety guidlines due to the virus. The return to class includes all ages -- Pre-school to 12th grade, community colleges and higher education institutions.

Face coverings and social distancing will be required. There will be a 50-person limit in a gathering space, temperature checks and an increase in cleaning.

Beyond that criteria, the school year will look different depending on where you live.

“Each school district and each university will develop and implement a reopening plan that meets the needs of their community,” Pritzker said.

“We have tried to provide common and clear requirements, while preserving flexibility for each school and district to develop a reopening plan that meets the needs of the community and the children that they serve,” said Dr. Carmen Ayala, director of the Illinois State Board of Education.

The guidance was created in collaboration with educators across the state, but some groups say it is not enough.

The Chicago Teachers Union calls the guidance “too general and too vague,” and they will be in a critical series of discussions with union members and the city to figure out the plan for Chicago Public Schools.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers and Illinois Education Association leaders worry about a lack of personal protection equipment.

The governor says every student, staff and faculty member will be provided with a cloth mask -- 2.5 million distributed statewide.

“A child's ability to afford or acquire a face covering should have no impact on whether they can go to school,” Pritzker said.

State leaders say districts need to remain flexible in case there is a surge in virus cases.

“This could include shifting from in person to remote learning. When warranted, or even a blended approach to reopening our schools,” said Tom Bertrand, executive director of Illinois Association of School Boards.

Illinois health officials also said another 38 people have died from the coronavirus, raising the statewide death toll to 6,707.

There are also another 601 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The state’s total number of cases now stands at 137,825.

Of the newly reported deaths, 19 of them were in Cook County, according to the health department. They ranged in age between a woman in her 40s and two women who were older than 100.

Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.