Message from the IASA Executive Director
Illinois School District Superintendents,

This message is written in a moment like none of us have ever experienced. According to the World Health Organization, we are in a pandemic due to the COVID-19 spread across the globe. That in and of itself is a daunting statement that strikes fear into most people. However, while some start to panic, we, as school leaders have to “settle” to the challenge coming straight at us all. And in “settling,” we have to prepare, organize, and rise to the occasion to meet and manage this health crisis. There is some history regarding how to manage this going back to 1918 when comparing the ways in which Philadelphia and St. Louis reacted to disease spread. You can Google that and read the analysis. Opinion varies widely regarding school closure or not: Singapore, Japan, and Washington State.

When it comes to public schools, we are in a unique situation. We have community safety to consider, which involves our students and staff. As I write, students are going largely unaffected but, of course, that could have changed overnight or may change as more testing becomes available. The concern is mostly what is termed as “community spread.” Primarily mitigating the spread of the COVID-19 virus is the medical goal while recognizing that a spread is going to happen, but stretching that spread out over a longer period of time will allow our medical systems and providers the ability to respond rather than be swamped by a tsunami of cases. This is called flattening the curve.

As you consider your local situation, I would strongly urge you to collaborate and coordinate with community/county leaders – especially the county health departments which will receive guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). Just to be clear, decisions to close school districts will remain at the local level in consultation with your local public health department and IDPH, at this point in time. Neither the governor nor the Illinois State Board of Education will be making these decisions. It will remain at the local level. 

Meanwhile, work is being done by ISBE to ascertain what flexibilities can be provided around federal mandates, etc. Focus on what makes sense for your community and kids – safe environment, sanitary supplies and access to food and healthcare. E-Learning may not be a cure-all in every district; so keep that in mind. This is an emergency and well-reasoned decisions will be treated as such when the dust eventually settles.  

I can attest that the ISBE, IDPH, Terrorism Task Force, Governor Pritzker and his team are doing everything in their power to manage a rapidly developing situation. IASA has and will continue to partner with them and will update information and guidance to you as required. Below is updated guidance and actionable items for you to review.

We will continue to work through this together.
Decision Flow Chart
In order to help school leaders with the initial assessment of a student suspected of having COVID-19 and how to evaluate the need to cancel classes or facilities, IASA wants to share with you a flow chart outlining steps for schools to take.
Mitigation Strategies for Communities
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Illinois continues to increase. However, at this time, Illinois schools remain in what the Centers for Disease Control would classify as warning Level 1, or the "Preparedness Phase." Of course, the situation is rapidly evolving and the warning level could change.

The link is to a new document produced by the CDC called "Implementation of Mitigation Strategies for Communities with Local COVID-19 Transmission" that includes guidance for what to do in each level.

Page 4 of the document is specific guidance about what school districts can do to prepare for COVID-19, if the school or facility has cases of COVID-19, or if the community is experiencing the spread of COVID-19.
Communicate with Stakeholders
It's critical school leaders are regularly communicating with stakeholders. However, we recognize you might struggle with messaging. This document makes the process easy. Click the link to access a series of templates developed by a communications strategy firm recommended by AASA. The templates are for various scenarios, including a general message to send to parents or if a student or staff member in your district tests positive for COVID-19. In addition, other available templates include posts for your district website and a script to use for an automated call to parents.
Health Promotion Materials
Print Resources
Looking for social media graphics, posters and other printable materials to promote hand washing and other preventative strategies in your school district? The CDC has graphics you can download.
Need a flyer or one-page fact sheet to provide to your students, staff or community? The CDC has a number of resources you can easily download and share.
Steps to Prevent Illness
The Centers for Disease Control has steps everyone should be taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The No.1 step individuals can take is to wash your hands often. The CDC encourages individuals to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
Advice from Illinois Law Firms
Franzek has released a COVID-19 guidance publication for schools that covers general questions districts might have, student issues and employee issues.
Kriha-Boucek released its latest FAQ for schools on March 11 that answers numerous questions administrators may have about employment issues and other matters related to the COVID-19 matters.
Miller, Tracy, Braun, Funk and Miller LTD writes about how schools should respond to a pandemic disease such as the coronavirus.
Robbins Schwartz has produced guidance on preparedness and response for schools regarding COVID-19. The document includes guidance about personnel matters, student matters, travel plans and compensation.
Illinois State Board of Education Guidance
ISBE is working in partnership with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to ensure we are providing the most current resources and guidance to support Illinois education communities regarding the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.
Follow CDC Recommendations
The CDC has released general guidance on steps K-12 school officials should be taking. Below are some basic steps. Click the link to visit the CDC website for additional guidance for schools.

  • Collaborate with local health departments and partners to review, update, and implement emergency operations plans.
  • Develop information-sharing systems with partners that can be used for day-to-day reporting and disease surveillance to identify unusual rates of absenteeism. Review attendance and sick leave policies; encourage students and staff to stay home when sick and establish procedures to ensure student and staff who become sick at school or arrive at school sick are sent home as soon as possible.
  • Perform routine environmental cleaning.
  • Create communications plans for use with the school community.
  • Plan to provide critical support services, such as continuity of education and continuity of school meal programs, if schools are dismissed.
Travel Information
Due to recent acceleration of COVID-19 transmission globally and in accordance with current federal guidance, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) recommends the following:

  • Any student returning from a location with sustained widespread transmission (Travel Warning of Level 3) should not attend school for 14 days after the return date.
  • Absences for this purpose should be excused.
  • Family members of these students should not attend work if they also traveled to one of the locations with a Level 3 travel warning.
Checklist for K-12 Administrators
Talking with Children about Coronavirus
As administrators, you can plan and make decisions now that will protect the health of students in your care and your community during a COVID‐19 pandemic. The Illinois Department of Public Health, in conjunction with guidance from the CDC, has produced a checklist for K-12 school administrators.
Parents, family members, school staff and other trusted adults can play an important role in helping children make sense of what they hear in a way that is honest, accurate, and minimizes anxiety or fear. The CDC has created guidance to help adults have conversations with children about COVID-19.