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Illinois Superintendent publishes “A Public School Administrator’s Timeline of COVID-19 Guidance”

Elgin School Superintendent Tony Sanders has a message for school parents across the Country.  Pandemics aren’t easy.

“As an Illinois school district administrator who has also worked at the State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Public Health, and knowing that none of us has ever lived through a pandemic, my below timeline is not intended to offend state officials who, like me, are working to decipher data and provide the best direction in the moment.  We have all been working incredibly long hours and are exhausted.” Sanders said in the letter, entitled A Public School Administrator’s Timeline of COVID-19 Guidance, published Friday.

Sanders oversees 38,000 students at School District U-46 in Elgin.  Since then the letter has been retweeted by a number of psychologists, school administrators, teachers, social workers, coaches and fellow superintendents who have called it “a must read.”

The letter takes a summary of guidance given forth by state and federal government officials since steps to curb the pandemic began back in March.

“School district leaders I know keep being accused of being political. Our decisions on how we can best open or provide remote learning is a function of many complexities… student enrollment, class sizes, available physical spaces, staff, funding, accessibility, and on and on. Our teams are trying to develop plans aligned to ever changing guidance and data, while (like ISBE and IDPH) the communities we serve want and deserve answers.” Sanders says. “With that disclaimer, and with no offense intended, I provide you with A Public School Administrator’s Timeline of COVID-19 Guidance.”

Below you’ll find Sander’s full summary:


March 13, 2020 – 46 cases and zero deaths.

Dear Public School Administrator:

Effective March 17, you must shut down all your schools.   We expect this virus called COVID-19 to spread like wildfire, and we need to do everything we can to flatten the curve.  We have 46 confirmed cases in the state, but that number will grow rapidly.

In addition, we are shutting down bars, restaurants, gyms… everything that is not an essential function which includes public education.

Oh, but please be sure to educate kids remotely.  We will let you know how as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

State Government


March 27, 2020

Dear Public School Administrator:

We now have 3,026 confirmed cases and 34 deaths.

Please begin remote learning days beginning March 31.  Make it good!  Oh, but we suggest you do not grade students.  Use this as “the opportunity to redo, make up, or try again to complete, show progress, or attempt to complete work assigned prior to March 13.”  And even though it does not really count, take attendance so we know kids are being engaged.


April 27, 2020

Dear Public School Administrator:

We have over 45,000 confirmed cases and 1,983 deaths.  Thus, our schools must remain closed.  You need to make sure you are checking in on all your students daily.  We give you flexibility on how to meet the needs of kids, but try to give 30 minutes per day of instruction to kindergarteners, to somewhere between two and five hours for high school students.

Start making plans to make up for lost learning, but if you do so, make sure it is done remotely only. 

And you cannot hold any in-person graduation ceremonies. 

Sincerely,

State Government


May 1, 2020

Dear Public School Administrator:

Today we have 56,000 cases and 2,457 deaths.

Ok…remember that graduation declaration?  Forget about it.  You can now be creative.  Just so long as you follow all our rules, which includes wearing face masks, limiting participation, checking with all your local health departments to ensure they bless your plan. 

Sincerely,

State Government


May 15, 2020

Dear Public School Administrator:

Today we have 90,000 cases and 4,058 deaths.

Good news! Here is guidance for how you can run summer school (but remember, you should plan to make it remote only).  You really should do this to help students who received an incomplete due to the prior round of remote learning.

Don’t forget to track student attendance and report it!

Sincerely,

State Government


June 18, 2020

Dear Public School Administrator:

Today we have 134,000 cases and 6,536 deaths.

Even better news!  Remember how we said you couldn’t hold in-person summer school?  Well now that you are already in the middle of it, we encourage you to utilize a mix of in-person and remote learning. 

Also, for the 2020—21 school year, you can plan to return to school using Blended Remote Learning Day “to support a safe transition back to in-person learning.”

Sincerely,

State Government


June 23, 2020

Dear Public School Administrator:

Today – 137,000 cases and 6,706 deaths

Remember when we said we created Blended Remote Learning Days to “support a safe transition back to in-person learning? “ Well now in-person instruction is strongly encouraged in Phase 4… so long as you provide “appropriate social distancing, face coverings, enhanced sanitation measures, and other accommodations.”  Oh, and you cannot have more than 50 individuals in one space.  Oh, and make sure you ensure those coming into a building do not have a temperature and are not sick.

Please note, however, there are no additional legal protections if someone gets sick while in your schools.

Sincerely,

State Government


June 24, 2020

Dear Public School Administrator:

Our bad.  When we said “Face coverings” we really only meant face masks… face shields cannot not be used except in the rarest of situations.

Sincerely,

State Government


July 23, 2020

Dear Public School Administrator:

Today we have 166,000 cases and 7,366 deaths.

Congratulations…less than a month away from school and we are pleased to share with you our Fall 2020 Learning Recommendations. 

Note that we really want to ensure local control, BUT 1) we really want to emphasize the importance of in-person schooling, and 2) you must offer families a remote learning option.  You may decide internally how to reconcile those two points.

Oh, and remember how we gave you flexibility last April to adjust how much time students must be on  a device?  Well, now we say you must provide a full 5 hours of instruction, and at least 2.5 hours must be synchronous, meaning the teachers and students engaging. 

It is still perfectly safe to reopen so long as you ensure social distance, mask wearing by everyone in a building, and do not allow more than 50 people in a space.

Sincerely,

State Government


July 23, 2020

Dear Public School Administrator 

This is your federal government.  Here at this level we have over 4 million cases and 143,868 deaths.   The below chart shows you how we compare to other nations (we are the orange line that is rising) according to Johns Hopkins University.

To give you plenty of time to prepare before schools open in a few weeks, we wanted to let you know we really want kids back in school.  It is perfectly safe so long as you follow the updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.  Simply ensure everyone washes their hands frequently, ensure nobody touches their face, wear a face mask, maintain six feet of distance from other adults and try to do the same for students when feasible, make sure people who are sick stay home, and limit the use of shared objects. 

Hey, you might want to consider “cohorting” where students and staff stay together for the whole day.  Some countries call these “pods.”  Sorry if you cannot afford the additional staff that would require.

Good luck figuring out lunch and bus transportation.

Sincerely,

Federal Government 

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