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Governor Updates Order Regarding Return to In-Person Learning

K-12 Education K-12 Education

Earlier this week, on June 1, 2021, Governor J.B. Pritzker re-issued and amended Executive Order 2020-47 to provide more flexibility to preK-12 schools seeking to offer full-time in-person instruction. The order allows students and vaccinated staff to maintain physical distancing of no less than three feet instead of six. Unvaccinated staff must continue to maintain 6 feet of physical distancing. The order also continues to require masks be worn by all employees, students, and visitors in order to open for in-person educational purposes, with no distinction made between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. This requirement appears to be confined to the times in which a school is open for in-person educational purposes, as opposed to being open for school business purposes, such as board of education meetings. The order also relaxes the maximum number of individuals in a single space, such as a cafeteria or gymnasium, to how ever many people the space can accommodate under the new distancing guidelines. However, the three-foot distancing requirement effectively limits larger school districts from holding lunch or other activities in communal spaces where they cannot maintain three feet between students. The order also does not explain how schools can differentiate between vaccinated and unvaccinated staff to assess whether the new parameters are met or provide any immunity to schools that may inadvertently fail to meet the standards. The order includes other changes, such as removing the mandate to require symptom screenings and temperature checks before individuals enter school buildings. Schools need only require individuals to self-certify that they are free of COVID-19 symptoms to enter. The order specifies that schools must use hand sanitizer that is alcohol-based and contains at least 60% alcohol. Schools also must clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces at least once per day and more often as necessary per CDC guidelines. The order is in effect through June 26, 2021, but provides some insight into what relaxations schools may, at a minimum be able to expect for the fall.