ILLINOIS (IRN) — As Illinois goes through another surge in COVID-19 cases, state officials are cutting the recommended quarantine time for teachers and students in half.
The Illinois State Board of Education said effective immediately, the state will follow the Center for Disease Control’s guidance on shortening isolation and quarantine periods from 10 to 5 days. The guidance applies to all public and nonpublic schools that serve students in Pre-K through 12th grade.
In addition, students and staff who test positive must continue to wear a mask around others for five more days after returning to school.
“My hope is that going to a 5-day quarantine or isolation period, both students and staff will get back sooner. Obviously, I think the safety mitigations we have in place help that,” said Bloomington District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly.
Reilly said the school day has been shortened to reduce the time high school students congregate in the lunchroom, but believes transmission at school is rare.
“What I would say is that it is uncommon to happen at school,” Reilly said. “It is not as if it never does, but it is much less likely to happen here than out in the community.”
ISBE currently has a test-to-stay policy in place, which Bloomington schools take part in. The program allows a student who was in contact with a positive case to avoid quarantine as long as they are asymptomatic.
The virus is not only causing shortages with teachers and support staff, but in other areas as well. Tom Hernandez, community relations director with the Plainfield school district 202, said schools were shut down for a couple of days recently because too many bus drivers were out sick.
“We are the 5th largest school district in Illinois, and when you are that big the logistics of making everything work, there are a thousand moving pieces, and obviously being able to transport kids safely and efficiently is a big part of that,” Hernandez said.
As for the latest guidance from ISBE, Hernandez said the district is staying the course.
“In the interest in protecting our students and staff, safety is absolutely our top priority and we believe the state is giving us the best guidance to achieve that,” Hernandez said.