By Kelly Youngblood
The Illinois Department of Public Health announced in a press release it will adopt Centers for Disease Control guidelines for K-12 schools that were released Friday.
The announcement addresses one question many parents have been wondering — whether fully vaccinated students will be required to wear a mask.
IDPH stated: “The updated school guidance now aligns with guidance for fully vaccinated people, which allows activities to resume for fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask except where required by federal, state, and local rules and regulations.”
The guidance emphasizes the importance of in-person learning and vaccinations as the best preventative measure against COVID-19.
State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala issued the following statement:
“Beginning with the 2021-22 school year, all schools must resume fully in-person learning for all student attendance days, provided that, pursuant to 105 ILCS 5/10-30 and 105 ILCS 5/34-18.66, remote instruction be made available for students who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine or who are not eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, only while they are under quarantine consistent with guidance or requirements from a local public health department or the Illinois Department of Public Health.”
Monticello superintendent Vic Zimmerman anticipated the Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois State Board of Education would follow CDC guidelines and said his district would likely follow state-wide health and education policies.
“I anticipate that we will follow the CDC/IDPH/ISBE guidance as well,” Zimmerman said.
Dr. Lindsey Hall, superintendent of the Mahomet-Seymour school district, said for now the district is planning “to have a regular school schedule, full days/5 days per week, etc.”
Despite the updated guidelines, Hall said more changes could come before the start of school, but “that isn’t a sure thing.”
“We still have a long way to go to solidify all of this,” Hall said.
Here are some key points from the CDC guidelines:
Students benefit from in-person learning, and safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall 2021 is a priority.
Vaccination is currently the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Promoting vaccination can help schools safely return to in-person learning as well as extracurricular activities and sports.
Masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated. Consistent and correct mask use by people who are not fully vaccinated is especially important indoors and in crowded settings, when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
CDC recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, combined with indoor mask wearing by people who are not fully vaccinated, to reduce transmission risk. When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, such as when schools cannot fully re-open while maintaining these distances, it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as indoor masking.
Screening testing, ventilation, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, staying home when sick and getting tested, contact tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation, and cleaning and disinfection are also important layers of prevention to keep schools safe.
Students, teachers, and staff should stay home when they have signs of any infectious illness and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care.
Many schools serve children under the age of 12 who are not eligible for vaccination at this time. Therefore, this guidance emphasizes implementing layered prevention strategies (e.g., using multiple prevention strategies together consistently) to protect people who are not fully vaccinated, including students, teachers, staff, and other members of their households.
COVID-19 prevention strategies remain critical to protect people, including students, teachers, and staff, who are not fully vaccinated, especially in areas of moderate-to-high community transmission levels.
Localities should monitor community transmission, vaccination coverage, screening testing, and occurrence of outbreaks to guide decisions on the level of layered prevention strategies (e.g., physical distancing, screening testing).
Check out our entire Back to School Series, presented by Christie Clinic:
- Back to School: Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten
- Back to School: 9 Tips to Prepare for the School Routine
- Money-Saving Tips for Back-to-School Shopping
- Champaign-Urbana Area School Start Dates
- Back to School: Dental, Vision Exams Required for Illinois Students
- Champaign-Urbana Area School Registration Information for 2021-22
- Back to School: Immunizations Required for Illinois Students