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IASB Pandemic Preparation Information

  • Date Posted
    March 12, 2020
  • Category
    COVID-19
The continuing spread of the COVID-19 virus is on the mind of all school officials. Executives of the Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance have been in contact with Governor JB Pritzker's staff and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). The purpose of this communication is to provide you with up-to-date information and suggested action items to prepare your schools for a potential extended pandemic.
 
Per IDPH, the risk of contracting COVID-19 (the new coronavirus) is still low for most citizens, particularly children. However, elderly people and those with pre-existing health conditions are at greater risk. IDPH has moved from "containment phase" to "mitigation phase" in response to the increasing number of community-spread cases of COVID-19. If cases increase in specific regions, expect strong recommendations about the cancellation of events and large gatherings.
 
We remain concerned about the continuity of education and the importance of providing meals to schoolchildren in the event of school closures. ISBE is seeking greater flexibility for schools to provide e-learning opportunities for students. This flexibility would likely require an Executive Order of the governor until legislation can be passed to modify the requirements. It is understood that there is great disparity across the state in terms of the capacity to provide e-learning in the event of school closures.
 
If the virus continues to spread resulting in extended school closures, it is likely that schools will be able to utilize "Act of God" days once all emergency days are exhausted.
 
It is important to take steps now to plan for the possibility of extended school closures. This may involve the following:
  • Assess the capacity among students, families, and staff to participate fully in e-learning opportunities in the event of school closures.
  • If the district has the capacity to offer e-learning, develop an e-learning plan as soon as possible, and begin to prepare the school community for the possibility. ISBE has posted examples of district e-learning plans.
  • Review relevant employment policies and procedures, such as sick leave and return-to-work policies, etc.
  • Consider whether changes in working conditions for affected employees may be necessary, for example adjusted work hours, implementation of e-learning, expectations for working from home. Changes in working conditions trigger an obligation to meet with the respective unions to discuss the issues.
  • Consult your legal counsel to determine whether to execute a Memorandum of Understanding with employee unions if the district intends to deviate from established policies, procedures, and contract language. This may include items such as granting of additional sick leave or expanding the criteria for authorized absences from work and the use of benefit time (i.e. loss of daycare provider). You do not want to establish a legal precedent for events in the future.
  • Determine the district's ability to conduct deep cleaning of a school if needed. Explore outside services that may be required to assist the district.
All of us understand that this is a fluid and rapidly evolving situation. We will continue to remain in contact with state officials in order to provide timely information and appropriate guidance.
 
Contact the IASB Springfield or Lombard offices if you have further questions.