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Teachers’ union issues statement on return to in-person learning

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school reopening concerns

WESTMONT, Ill (WGEM) — Following a virtual news conference on Monday the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) issued a statement on the return to in-person learning.

In the release, IFT stated that they are eager to return to in-person instruction, but have grave concerns for the safety of students, their families and communities, and the educators of this state.

IFT stated even though Illinois’ current COVID-19, positivity rate has improved over the past several months, the rate is currently unstable and, in some regions, clearly on the rise. This trend indicates that surges of COVID-19 spread, infections and deaths are still a very real threat.

In order for their "members, students, and families to feel safe returning to schools and campuses," IFT called for each district, college,

and university to have:

  • All educational institutions 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.

Equitable safe reopening for families

IFT also stated, that "COVID-19 lifted the veil on the disparities that exist among our students and families, especially our Black and Brown students. That the moment requires stability and equity for our families and children if they are going to thrive. We believe that:

  • Broadband access and devices need to be provided for all students, in any academic institution, so they can participate in remote learning as needed.
  • As we are readying for a safe return to school, we must prioritize the students and families with the greatest need for in-person instruction to return first.
  • Families need access to free or affordable health care now.
  • All academic institutions must engage in trauma-informed practices and crisis intervention.
  • Evictions and foreclosures need to be halted during these unstable times."

Childcare

In identifying the issue some parents would have with childcare, IFT asked that all educational institutions work to identify the families that need childcare and work to provide opportunities with local partners and organizations in helping fill gaps during the instructional day.

IFT's complete statement is below.

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