State education board votes for return to fully in-person learning this fall

School districts will have the flexibility to continue to provide remote learning to individual students, “if that best meets their learning needs,” State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala said.

With vaccines widely available for children age 12 and older, state education officials signaled their support Wednesday for a return to a fully in-person school year this fall.

The Illinois State Board of Education approved a resolution Wednesday that “all schools must resume fully in-person learning for all student attendance days.”

Schools also would be required to make remote instruction available for students not eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine and who are under a quarantine order by local or state health authorities.

School districts will have the flexibility to continue to provide remote learning to individual students “if that best meets their learning needs,” State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala said. “We are still awaiting more guidance from public health. This is an evolving thing.”

Trials are underway to determine if younger children can get the COVID-19 vaccine. Without that, resuming in-person learning this fall for all younger students could be problematic, some ISBE board members and parents said.

Barring changes in public health conditions, Illinois is expected to enter Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois plan June 11, allowing businesses to resume normal operations and public gatherings of all sizes.

State education officials said multiple studies show that students, particularly those who struggle academically, learn better while in person. Reconnecting with teachers and peers also is essential for students’ mental health and social-emotional development, especially after the prolonged isolation of the pandemic, officials said.

Nearly all Illinois public school districts are offering partial or fully in-person learning at this time.