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State Board of Education Calls for In-Person Learning Next School Year

The Illinois State Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday calling on all public schools to return to in-person learning during the upcoming school year.

The resolution doesn’t institute any mandates or requirements for Illinois schools to follow, but shows unified support from ISBE for an upcoming decision by State Superintendent Carmen Ayala.

In a weekly blog posted to the ISBE website, Ayala said she plans to make the mandate official “at the conclusion of the current academic year,” meaning the change will not take effect until next school year.

Once Ayala issues an official declaration, all public schools will be required to return to in-person learning for the 2021-2022 academic year with no exceptions. Only students who are both unvaccinated and under a quarantine order from the Illinois Department of Health will be eligible to continue remote learning.

A spokeswoman for ISBE said they expect the bulk of the population eligible for remote learning at the start of the school year to be under 12 years old.

“We encourage families to use the summer months to ensure that eligible children get vaccinated,” she said. “The vaccines are safe, effective, and proven to protect you from getting sick.”

Students who do not qualify for remote learning may seek home or hospital instruction if a doctor determines they will miss at least 10 days of school due to a medical condition.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine is safe for children 12 and over, while everyone aged 16 and over is eligible to receive any U.S. approved vaccine. Pfizer may file for emergency use authorization of its vaccine from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in children aged 2 to 11 in September, according to news reports.

“As always, our top priority is our students, and we know that in most cases, in-person learning is in their best interest,” Ayala said in her blog post. “Now that we have every indication that the pandemic will soon be behind us, we can prepare to return fully to the physical spaces that best provide these conditions.”

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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