SPRINGFIELD – The following statement is attributable to Illinois Education Association President Kathi Griffin:

“The health and safety of students, their families and our members are the most important things to consider during this worldwide pandemic. As we’ve seen over the past 16 months, conditions are ever evolving. Unfortunately, cases and hospitalizations are increasing in Illinois.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the Delta variant is more than twice as contagious as other strains of the virus and until more people are vaccinated, masks should be included in preK-12 schools’ layered approach to combating the illness and keeping students in school. We’ve said all along that it’s best to have students in the classroom, as long as it’s safe. Educators are looking forward to teaching students in-person this year and preK-12 schools. Schools and higher ed institutions should be looking at all CDC recommendations, including ventilation, testing and other methods to keep everyone within their walls safe.

We know that our Black and Brown communities were affected disproportionately by the pandemic because many were essential workers who kept the country going during the shutdown. We hope schools use the federal money sent to them to help recover from the pandemic to provide social and emotional resources to the students from those families, and to all who need help recovering from the trauma the pandemic has brought on, as well as improving ventilation, bridging learning gaps, and instituting other safety measures.”

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The 135,000 member Illinois Education Association (IEA-NEA) is the state’s largest education employee’s organization. IEA represents preK-12 teachers outside of the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.