Safety of students, teachers, and staff must be top priority
Considering the rising case numbers in Illinois and the lack of a practical safety plan, the IFT has called for the 2020-21 school year to begin with remote learning statewide.
We know that our members want to be back with their students, but the stakes are too high to return to in-person instruction right now. The COVID-19 positivity rate in Illinois is unstable and on the rise in some regions. Surges of spread, infections, and deaths are a very real possibility.
Our union has developed science-based guidance for how to reopen schools safely, which includes:
All educational institutions must be working with their unions now to negotiate safe and effective learning plans; parents and students should be partners in these community discussions.
A sustainable school day or course model that incorporates blended learning, which allows for appropriate social distancing and does not exceed 15 students in the same classroom at one time; or on campuses, a room that can adequately accommodate all individuals using CDC recommendations on social distancing.
The right of educators to determine the best mode of instruction.
A clear safety plan that includes enforcement and accountability of the required IDPH and CDC guidelines for schools and campuses.
Temperature checks and/or health screenings for all students, staff, and visitors prior to entry.
A required two-week quarantine when a student or staff tests positive for COVID-19 or has a high-risk exposure to COVID-19, with special paid sick leave provided by the employer.
Contact tracing notifications to students, families, and staff when a positive test occurs for a person who is known to have been in a school or campus building.
Coronavirus testing availability—especially for people in rural communities.
Comprehensive plans for ensuring a safe and clean physical environment in schools and on campuses, including the remediation of poor ventilation systems.
Employer accommodations for high-risk students and employees.
IFT has also provided guidance to ensure that students and families, particularly those in our Black and Brown communities hit the hardest by the pandemic, have adequate access to technology, healthcare, childcare, and other essential needs.
We know that decisions about reopening Illinois’ educational institutions are difficult to make. There will be financial and logistical challenges. But the safety of our students, educators, and staff must be paramount, and we will fight to ensure that it is.
Press Inquires: Email Monica Trevino at Mtrevino@ift-aft.org
Visit ift-aft.org/covid for additional COVID-19 news and resources.