Home COVID-19 Updates

COVID-19 Updates

For IEA Board of Directors, Local Presidents and Staff

Some of the links and information may be shared with members. President Kathi Griffin’s daily COVID-19 email update will include an asterisk* next to each item to be shared.

May 20, 2020

State School Supt. Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., posted her weekly message Wednesday afternoon. The weekly message was a communication Ayala was doing prior to the COVID-19 crisis and it covers a wide variety of topics, including the following:

  • Ayala encouraged educators to post this FAQ for families on the topic of remote learning on their websites so families know where to turn on a variety of topics.
  • She also referenced this new document, a guide for families on where they can find help while school is out – help on a wide range of topics including healthcare, meals, childcare, unemployment and housing, learning and instruction and other items.

And, it includes a variety of other COVID-19 updates, resources for families for the summer and other ISBE-related news.

Other website updates include:

  • As a result of conversations with the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the Illinois Community College Board and the Deputy Governor of Education:
    • IEA will now have a representative on the “Campus Re-opening Committee,” a group that had been made up of only university and community college presidents from public and private institutions. The member is a nursing professor at College of DuPage.
    • And, that the Executive Directors of IBHE and ICCB will start meeting with an IEA staff member and several IEA higher education leaders to begin discussing transition issues.
  • In other news, the Chronicle of Higher Education has developed a searchable list of higher education institutions and the plans each has for fall and whether to open, or not.
  • ISBE has also posted a fact sheet for those working with English Language Learners. It is from the U.S. Department of Education and contains quite a bit of guidance. It is dated May 18.
  • Tuesday’s 4@4 with IEA President Kathi Griffin and Executive Director Audrey Soglin. They addressed the questions of whether employees should be paid if they are sent home to quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure, PPE for educators, higher ed information and the possibility of districts opening early.
  • During this challenging time, your union is working to support you in every way that we can. We understand that you may have many concerns right now ranging from the education and welfare of your students, the wellbeing of your families and the short-term and long-term financial impact of this pandemic on you personally.
  • To assist our members with relevant information during this time of uncertainty, NEA Member Benefits and the NEA Retirement Program provided by Security Benefit are hosting a webinar on Wed., June 10, at 4:30 p.m. This webinar, “Charting the Course Forward” will provide an explanation on recent federal changes under the CARES Act to provide stimulus monies to eligible Americans, student loan relief, and new hardship withdrawal allowances for 403(b) account holders. It will also provide expert guidance on the impact of current market volatility and what investors should know. Additional resources, including updating beneficiary information, will also be provided from NEA Member Benefits.
  • There will only be room for 250 people in the webinar. So, register quickly. The session will be recorded and shared with members to watch at their leisure.  Once registered, a link to the webinar will be emailed to you on June 9 for the June 10 webinar, and you will receive a reminder the morning of.
  • J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday that he will ease many of the Stay-at-Home restrictions in nine days, including allowing bars and restaurants with outdoor seating to start serving customers and allowing retail businesses that can abide by Illinois Department of Public Health standards of COVID-19 public safety measures to open. He also said all state parks would open, among other changes to Phase 3 of his Restore Illinois plan. It was also announced there were 147 deaths in the past 24 hours for a total of 4,526 and 2,388 new cases for a total of 100,418. In good news, Illinois recorded its lowest number of hospitalizations of COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours since the state started tracking the statistic with 3,914.

Federal CARES Act
To help members understand the federal CARES Act, National Education Association staff have worked to create one pagers to explain different elements of the law.  Hopefully, these will help unpack some of the new provisions until there is further guidance from the administration.

Questions and Answers:

Questions and Answers will be addressed here upon submission.

Previous Updates

May 18, 2020

The daily update from State School Supt. Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., which was posted Monday afternoon included the following:

  • The application for districts to apply for CARES Act money opened Monday. A webinar on the process was held Monday afternoon and a second will be held Tuesday.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency is offering Emergency Assistance that districts can apply for in order to pay for sanitizing and personal protective gear for next school year. Supt. Ayala urges districts to start now trying to secure those items as demand will be high and supplies may be short.
  • The Illinois School Report Card will undergo some temporary changes this year because of all the data gaps the COVID-19 crisis has caused. A list of those changes was made available Monday.

Other website updates include:

  • The Illinois Board of Higher Education has named a group of leaders to study how campuses might reopen in the fall. The committee is made up representatives of Illinois’ public and private universities and colleges, as well as the state’s community colleges. “We know there is a lot of uncertainty, but one thing that is certain is that Illinois colleges remain the best, most affordable option for many. Whether that means working online to be safe, or a socially-distanced in-person experience, our colleges and universities will be here,” said Ginger Ostro, executive director, IBHE. “As we focus on implementing the Restore Illinois plan across the state’s higher education system, the expertise of these college and university leaders will be invaluable.”
  • On Monday afternoon, Gov. J.B. Pritzker talked about the state’s plan for contact tracing – one of the key components he’s said to dealing effectively with the virus. Two counties will be used as a pilot project – St. Clair in the Metro East area and Lake in the Chicago suburbs. One thing the state will need in order to carry out the plan are the actual contract tracers. There is an application now available for those positions. It was also announced that there were 59 deaths in the past 24 hours for a total of 4,236 and 2,294 new cases for a total of 96,485.

May 15, 2020

The latest weekly message from State School Supt. Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., which was posted Friday afternoon included the following:

  • Part One of the Transition Plan and the fact that districts will be able to start applying for the CARES Act funds, both of which are addressed below.
  • Ayala also addresses Personal Protective Equipment, telling districts they should begin the process now for purchasing everything they are going to need, as well as deep cleaning supplies, in order to have them ready for when students return to school buildings because global demand is only going to increase.
  • She also talks about Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020, a one-hour, commercial-free primetime graduation special to be broadcast tomorrow. Illinois is partnering with the Council of Chief State School Officers and XQ institute to support the celebration.
  • And, Supt. Ayala reminds educators to take the Illinois Educator Survey by May 31. It will help inform ISBE and the Illinois Department of Public Health as they work on the next part of the transition plan.

Other website updates include:

  • Part One of the Transition Plan – Closing out the 2019-20 school year and summer learning – In it, ISBE acknowledges a few things, including the fact it understands people are looking for more details about how to plan for next year. It says it is working with the Illinois Department of Public Health to come up with that advice and it will be released in a few weeks.
  • ISBE also notes the following: “Public health experts have communicated to ISBE and to the Governor’s Office that they believe coronavirus transmissions may subside in the summer months, but spike again in the fall/winter. When your region enters Phase 4, and you have received approval from your local department of public health, you may consider starting the 2020-21. This may be possible in August, rather than after Labor Day. This would allow school districts to maximize the amount of time students have access to in-person instruction at the beginning of the school year, in the event a return to remote learning is necessary later in the fall. Once again, it’s important to recognize even when districts reach Phase 4 and in-person instruction resumes, school will still look very different from what we are used to.”
  • Also included in the 17-page guide for closing out this school year is advice on student attendance, wellness checks and community connections, grading, minimizing learning loss, picking up belongings and addressing grief and loss.
  • As for the summer learning, the guide addresses social and emotional supports, summer school, summer meals, device distribution and professional development.
  • ISBE’s application for the CARES Act money was approved this week and districts can start applying next week for the money. There are two webinars scheduled – one for Monday and one for Tuesday, both at 3 p.m. – to explain to district staff the parameters of the application process. As a reminder, here are the district allocations. And while the funds were to be allocated like Title 1 money, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos threw a wrench in those plans. If you have private schools in your area, she’s attempting to make sure they’re going to see more money than they would normally. Here’s more on that story.
  • ISBE posted on Friday Emergency Rules for school maintenance construction project The emergency rules deal with deadline dates for applications and reviews.
  • ISBE on Thursday posted remote learning guidance for families, where answers to many of the most frequently asked questions from caretakers are posted all in one resource document. And in Spanish.
  • Thursday’s 4@4 with IEA President Kathi Griffin and Executive Director Audrey Soglin where they discuss districts “furloughing” employees, a statewide survey of school employees on district learning, the possibility of a new federal stimulus package and how members can access their ISBE ELIS log in information.
  • J.B. Pritzker’s said Friday that COVID-19 has taken 130 more lives in the past 24 hours, bringing Illinois’ death toll to 4,058. An additional 2,432 more people tested positive, for a total of 90,369 cases and the virus has now spread to 100 of Illinois; 102 counties.

May 13, 2020

The latest weekly message from State School Supt. Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., which was posted Wednesday evening, includes information on a wide array of topics, including several online social-emotional trainings, a reminder to keep our state’s older residents in mind when looking for people we can help, English learner resources and more.

Other website updates include:

  • IEA has developed an action page for you to share with members to make it easy for them to take action to push the federal government to help schools – from PreK through university level – financially, to close the digital divide and to provide personal protective gear to educators who could come into contact with students and students’ families. Action could be taken by the U.S. House as early as THIS FRIDAY! Please encourage members to sign the petition, email their members of Congress and encourage others to do the same. It is imperative that our schools get more financial help to stave off major cuts. Please take action immediately.
  • ISBE’s Class of 2020 webpage went live Tuesday – a place where information about graduation is being shared and where messages from Supt. Ayala, messages from students to each other, etc. are being shared.
  • NEA’s “Educating through Crisis” page where it has amassed resources, ways to take action, including ways for you to tell Congress to help provide financial help for schools as traditional funding sources dry up due to the COVID-10 crisis.
  • Tuesday’s 4@4 with IEA President Kathi Griffin and Executive Director Audrey Soglin discuss the possibility of RIFs for support personnel, defaults for incomplete evaluations, clock hour credit for remote learning prep applying to paraprofessionals and state board tests for professional educator licenses.
  • J.B. Pritzker’s daily update Wednesday included 192 deaths, the highest number in one day to date, for a total of 3,792, and 1,677 new cases, for a total of 84,698. The Governor also cautioned against the areas of the state opening too quickly, saying the decision could put people in danger and warned of regulatory action or losing out on federal recovery funds. In addition, the state legislature will return to Springfield next week to handle COVID-19-related matters.

May 11, 2020

The most recent update by State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., which was posted Monday evening, included the following:

  • A CARES Act update that included the fact that Illinois is set to receive close to $570 million from the federal government. And, about 90 percent of that money is supposed to go directly to districts. ISBE will be releasing an application this week for districts to fill out and also will record a webinar with further explanation. The remaining money will be used by ISBE in six different areas: for laptops and tablets, internet connectivity, virtual coaching for new teachers, professional development, state administration, and some money set aside for entities not eligible for direct funds because they are ineligible for Title I funds.
  • As a reminder, NEA is asking members to partner with parents and community leaders across the country to take action the week of May 18 to demand that Congress act to ensure students and communities Rise Together for another stimulus package to help schools by:
    • Stabilizing education funding for students in schools and on college campuses ($175 billion package);
    • Building bridges for educational opportunity for students and stronger communities by bridging the digital divide ($4 billion);
    • Supporting the safety, health and well-being of students and educators by providing personal protective gear for education employees who come into contact with students and families.
  • Go to www.nea.org/covidaction for more information on this movement. There will be a national grassroots tele-town hall on May 14 at 6 p.m. to discuss what communities can do. In addition, IEA will be sharing a number of organizing activities next week around this effort.

Other website updates include:

  • Updated guidance from the Illinois Community College Board that was posted last week.
  • ISBE guidance on English learners and English learners services during remote learning, including information on the ACCESS test, Title III money, evidence-based funding formula information, among other information.
  • In Monday’s update from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, it was announced that the state received its first shipment of Remdesivir, a drug that has been shown to help patients have a shorter recovery time. Illinois received 140 cases of the drug, which were sent to 14 hospitals across the state and each case can treat five, or so, cases. The state established a criteria as to who should receive the medicine. There were 54 additional deaths, for a total of 3,459 in Illinois, and 1,266 new cases, for a total of 79,007. Governor Pritzker also announced that a high level staffer from his staff has tested positive for COVID-19, so his staff is now working while self-quarantined for 14 days.

May 8, 2020

The most recent update by State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., which was posted Friday evening, included the following:

  • Graduate Together – America Honors the Class of 2020 – LeBron James will host a one-hour, commercial free, prime time event on Sun., May 16 at 7 p.m. on all three major networks as well as FOX, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, PeopleTV, and Complex Networks and will feature leaders and entertainers. They’re seeking submissions from high school seniors, their families, and their educators, and they prefer landscape (horizontal) format. Even if your entry doesn’t make it into the show, it may be distributed through social media or follow-up stories (there are links in her update on how to do this). ISBE is also looking for examples from around the state on graduation celebrations where social distancing is being practiced. Directions on how to do so are in Supt. Ayala’s update.
  • Ayala also drew attention to a very helpful video created by Teri Wilson, who teaches Family and Consumer Science in McLean County Unit 5, demonstrating three different no-sew methods for making face masks out of bandanas or Tshirts. This should be very helpful as Gov. Pritzker’s newest order requires everyone older than age two to wear face coverings when in public places

Other website updates include:

  • ISBE updated its general guidance to include timelines to return to school (p. 7), making clear that summer school should be remote (p. 10), guidance on attendance and wellness checks (p. 28) and summer school and remote learning clarity (p. 32).
  • Updated special education guidance that includes spelling out details on Free and Appropriate Public Education or FAPE (p. 2).
  • The IEA, IFT, ISBE, the Illinois Principals’ Association and Illinois Association of School Administrators have launched a survey for all PreK-12 members to find out how you think the transition to remote learning has gone. It was sent to the email we have on file for members and is posted on the IEA’s Coronavirus page. Here is a link.
  • Thursday’s 4@4 with IEA President Kathi Griffin and Executive Director Audrey Soglin in which they discuss the ability for educators to earn clock hours for the time they put in to learn how to educate remotely; summer school, how CARES Act money can be spent and a survey to gather members’ thoughts on their experiences around remote learning.
  • NEA is asking members to partner with parents and community leaders across the country to take action the week of May 18 to demand that Congress act to ensure students and communities Rise Together by:
    • Stabilizing education funding for students in schools and on college campuses ($175 billion package);
    • Building bridges for educational opportunity for students and stronger communities by bridging the digital divide ($4 billion);
    • Supporting the safety, health and well-being of students and educators by providing personal protective gear for education employees who come into contact with students and families.
  • Go to www.nea.org/covidaction for more information on this movement.
  • There will be a national grassroots tele-town hall on May 14 at 6 p.m. to discuss what communities can do.
  • J.B. Pritzker’s daily update Friday included updated numbers. The state received more than 20,000 tests back in the past 24 hours – the highest number of tests per day to date. As a result, 2,887 Illinoisans tested positive for a total of 73,760. Another 130 people died, for a total of 3,241. For the first time in more than 60 days, the Governor will not hold press conferences on Saturday or Sunday of this weekend, and does not plan to hold conferences on weekends going forward, and will resume the weekday schedule on Monday.

May 6, 2020

The most recent update by State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., which was posted Wednesday afternoon, was actually her normal weekly message. She has recently returned to posting a weekly message on Wednesdays. It has a wide variety of information in it, including information on awards, professional development, Teacher Appreciation Week messages, and more.

Other website updates include:

  • The response to Tuesday’s announcement that IEA’s members can now earn clock hours toward licensure recertification for all the hours they put in to train and prepare for remote learning has been astounding! More than 1,000 members have turned in their forms, so far. A Facebook post on the topic has reached more than 94,000 people. Here is a link to a video on the topic from IEA President Kathi Griffin and the form.
  • Tuesday’s 4@4 with IEA President Kathi Griffin and IEA Executive Director Audrey Soglin, which addresses graduation ceremonies, the start of next school year, student grades and the announcement that members can earn clock hours for the time they put in preparing to learn how to do remote learning! Please be sure to post questions in the comment section.
  • ISBE’s Student Advisory Council thanks teachers around the state in this video.
  • ISBE and Department of Children and Family Services Guidance on student wellness visits was posted Wednesday afternoon. In it, ISBE advises teachers can contact students through a variety of means – Zoom, email, phone calls, text messages, and the mail. If a teacher is unable to make contact with a student for over a week, they should attempt to make contact with their parent or guardian. If the wellbeing of a student is still unknown, schools and districts should do everything possible to conduct a wellness check visit. It then gives a number of safety and other tips.
  • ISBE on Wednesday issued Summer School Guidance on its website. The Governor’s Restore Illinois plan to reopen the state places in-person schooling in Phase 4 of five phases. Most regions in Illinois are experiencing Phase 2, as of early May. Schools and districts should plan to conduct summer school via remote learning in 2020, due to the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency. ISBE advises districts to look at federal CARES funding to help defray costs, close the digital divide and boost professional development around online learning.
  • Guidance was also posted that allows a portion of the classroom portion of Driver’s Education classes to be taught during remote learning.
  • IEA’s Legal Department has developed a one-pager that summarizes the unemployment benefits available under the federal CARES Act. Please feel free to share with members. It is also posted under the CARES Act resources on the IEA Coronavirus web pages, if you need to find it again.
  • PreK-12 teachers and support staff should be receiving via email a survey regarding their experiences around remote learning. The survey is a combined effort of IEA, IFT, ISBE, the Illinois Principals’ Association and the Illinois Association of School Administrators. Each stakeholder group is sending it out to their own members to fill out. It will be open until the end of May. If you have members who do not receive the survey, you can send them to the IEA Coronavirus page, where there is also a link. We encourage everyone to fill it out so we can get an accurate depiction of members’ experiences.
  • J.B. Pritzker announced in his Tuesday update a plan to reopen the state by region and in phases based on data, science and guidance from public health experts. Opening schools is in Phase 4 of the five phases and will occur when “the rate of infection among those surveillance tested and the number of patients admitted to the hospital continues to decline. Gatherings of 50 people or fewer are allowed, restaurants and bars reopen, travel resumes, child care and schools reopen under guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Face coverings and social distancing are the norm.”

May 4, 2020

The most recent update by State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., which was posted Monday night, included the following:

Other website updates include:

  • Graduation guidelines have been issued by both ISBE and the Illinois Department of Public Health and were posted by ISBE Saturday evening. ISBE does not need to approve specific graduation ceremonies, but if you have clarifying questions about the guidelines, please do not hesitate to reach out via COVID19@isbe.net. ISBE also posted an FAQ on the graduation guidelines ISBE’s overarching guidance for schools has been updated to reflect the graduation guidance.
  • The Illinois Board of Higher Education, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, and the Illinois Community College Board have come together in partnership with the Southern Illinois University Foundation to create the Public University and Community College Student COVID-19 Emergency Fund. The $550,000 fund, money raised from private donors, will be used to help low-income students at Illinois public colleges and universities with crisis situations related the COVID-19 pandemic to help them stay in school and stay afloat.
  • NEA is inviting local leaders to an event Wednesday night from 6 to 7 p.m. where it will launch a national campaign to demand Congress do three things:
    • Fill lost state and local revenue with at least $175 billion dedicated to public education;
    • Close the opportunity and equity gaps widened by the crisis;
    • And, provide the necessary resources for personal protective equipment for all educators and school staff who interact with students and their families.
  • It will take place from 6 to 7 p.m. and feature NEA President Lily Eskelson-Garcia, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLaura, chair of the education funding subcommittee. You need to register for the event.
  • J.B. Pritzker thanked teachers during his daily update Monday in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week. He said teachers have “long been a special kind of unsung hero” and now, during the pandemic, have filled so many more roles. “They are only humans doing their best to do their jobs.” He thanked all educators for stepping up to do things today they never thought they’d be doing. “If you aren’t a teacher, but you know one, take a minute to thank them this week,” he said. He also announced there were 2,341 new cases for a total of 63,840 cases in Illinois and 46 deaths, for a total of 2,662 known fatalities. There are also 4,493 people hospitalized with the novel COVID-19 virus.

May 1, 2020

The most recent update by State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., which was posted Friday night, included the following:

  • Illinois families with school age children can apply for extra money for food through the pandemic EBT program. If they receive SNAP benefits, the money will be automatically loaded. If the family only receives free or reduced lunch, they will need to apply. The Department of Human Services has prepared a flier with information, including how to apply online or in English and Spanish, among other items.
  • The Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation has compiled a list of grantees from a variety of children’s mental health providers for support students (and staff) for opportunities to form good partnerships.

Other website updates include:

April 29, 2020

The most recent update by State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., which was posted Wednesday night, included the following:

  • Ayala reminded educators that prior to the pandemic, suicide was the second leading cause of death among Americans ages 15-24. So, as you connect with students, who are missing their routines, their friends, their milestones, their teachers, and are now coping with added stress, remind them there are resources to help them. They can text TALK or HABLAR to 55-2020 and a mental health professional in their community will connect with them within 24 hours. The Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 1-800-273-8255. But, she said it much more eloquently. Take a read.
  • In addition, Lt. Gov. Julianna Stratton is hosting a virtual town hall tomorrow on Twitter and Facebook @LtGovStratton with youth from across the state, focusing on mental health needs during the pandemic. Students and educators are encouraged to join the livestream from 6 to 7 p.m. to ask questions and share thoughts using the hashtag #LGYOUTH.
  • And, Supt. Ayala acknowledged that while she said last week she’d be changing her communication schedule to Tuesday and Thursday, she’s opted to keep it Monday, Wednesday and Friday, reserving Wednesdays for her regular, pre-COVID-19 weekly Superintendent’s message. This update will keep the same schedule.

Other updates include:

  • ISBE issued updated guidance on Monday afternoon. There are three new items in it, including a suggestion that districts work in coordination with local public health departments when coming up with plans for students and employees to collect their belongs and a re-emphasis on the fact that there are TO BE NO IN-PERSON GRADUATION celebrations of any type.
    • “In-person graduation ceremonies are not allowed at this time. A drive-through graduation/recognition ceremony or events where students come in small groups to the school or another location for a photo or to walk across the stage are in person and therefore not allowed. The Governor’s extended stay at home order prohibits group gatherings. While there may be a time when large events can be held, it is not known when that will be safe. Districts should find other ways to honor 8th grade students and seniors through virtual ceremonies and celebrations.”
  • NEA’s Office of General Counsel is conducting an informative webinar about members’ rights to new paid sick and family leave benefits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act tomorrow from 6-7 p.m. They will also discuss expanded benefits under unemployment insurance programs for workers who have had hours reduced or have lost employment due to the pandemic. NEA will answer questions about the new benefits and educator rights under these federal laws. You can submit questions when you register. The webinar will be recorded. Questions can also be answered in other NEA online resources.
  • Two reminders:
    • All PreK-12 and student IEA members are invited to join a tele town hall with State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., tomorrow at 4 p.m. Members should have received a phone call today reminding you about the town hall meeting. Tomorrow, you will receive a second call before 4 p.m. that will show as IL Education from 217-203-0491 on the caller ID. You need only answer the call and you will be connected. The purpose of the call is to allow members to ask Supt. Ayala questions you have about the school building closures and related matters.
    • IEA Connect hours will be changing to 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, starting Fri., May 1. IEA Connect can be reached at 834-844-1800, at IEAConnect@ieanea.org or through the Live Chat function on the IEA website. If you reach out to Connect outside of the normal work hours, just leave a message and it will be returned the next work day.
  • J.B. Pritzker announced 2,253 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday for a total of 50,355 and 92 new deaths, for a total of 2,215. The number of people hospitalized jumped almost 300 overnight to 5,036 from 4,738. Of those 1,290 were in the Intensive Care Unit and 777 were on ventilators. In addition, a second lawsuit was filed by a lawmaker in northern Illinois against Gov. Pritzker’s Stay-at-Home order Wednesday. This time, it would apply to all Illinoisans and not just the lawmaker. Gov. Pritzker also filed a response.

April 28, 2020

The most recent update by State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., which was posted Monday night, included the following:

  • Ayala had a plea in her ISBE update Monday in the closing paragraph, asking educators to make every effort to touch base with all students on a regular basis. She said she’s counting on educators and their students are counting on them, too. “I realize that some children may be difficult to reach, but it’s entirely possible that those students are the ones who need us the most. Now is not the time to disconnect from our most vulnerable students. You possess unique abilities to protect the health and safety of the children you serve.”

Other updates include:

  • On Monday, ISBE published emergency rules and accompanying information to go along with Gov. JB Pritzker’s executive orders from last week in regard to graduation requirements and licensure information.
  • All certified, ESP and student IEA members are invited to join a tele town hall with State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., on Thursday at 4 p.m. Members will receive a phone call on Wednesday reminding you about the town hall meeting. On Thursday, you will receive a second call before 4 p.m. that will show as IL Education from 217-203-0491 on the caller ID. You need only answer the call and you will be connected. The purpose of the call is to allow members to ask Supt. Ayala questions you have about the school building closures and related matters.
  • IEA Connect hours will be changing to 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, starting Fri., May 1. IEA Connect can be reached at 834-844-1800, at IEAConnect@ieanea.org or through the Live Chat function on the IEA website. If you reach out to Connect outside of the normal work hours, just leave a message and it will be returned the next work day.
  • NEA is hosting a series of webinars in May and June on year-round organizing. You can learn more about the modules here and you can register for them here. There are eight in the series.
  • Today’s 4@4 with IEA President Kathi Griffin and IEA Executive Director Audrey Soglin. There will be no 4@4 on Thurs., April 30 because IEA will be hosting a tele town hall with State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., for our members at 4 p.m. that day. The 4@4 will resume on Tues., May 5.
  • In response to educators’ immediate and emerging needs, the NEA Foundation is offering three new grant opportunities to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on teaching and learning:
    • COVID-19 Rapid Response Grants (to be awarded during the Spring and Summer, 2020) to support educator-led initiatives to adapt to the unique circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • COVID-19 Response – Learning & Leadership Grants (to be awarded in September 2020) will support educators’ professional development focused on adapting to the unique challenges of the 2020-21 school year.
    • COVID-19 Response – Student Success Grants (to be awarded in September 2020) will support educator-led initiatives that increase educational equity and opportunity, responding to student needs that emerged or intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • J.B. Pritzker announced Tuesday 144 new deaths in the past 24 hours for a total of 2,127 and 2,219 new cases for a total of 48,102 cases. In addition, the number of people hospitalized with the virus continues to rise, increasing from Monday to Tuesday by 66 people to 4,738. He also noted Monday that the top five counties by rate of infection in Illinois are Cook, Jasper, Lake, Will and Randolph, noting that COVID-19 is not just a Chicago problem. He also said that Jasper and Monroe Counties, both downstate, have the top two death rates. Jasper County, is housed in the 109th legislative district, the home of Rep. Darren Bailey, the lawmaker who challenged the Governor’s Stay-at-Home order that goes into effect Friday. The judge sided with Bailey, though the decision only affects Bailey. Gov. Pritzker is filing an appeal to the case. On Tuesday, he addressed the case:
  • “I have been listening to working people and businesses to Democrats and Republicans, epidemiologists and expert modelers. Responsible people understand the trade-offs and the consequences of reopening too early. So I will continue to listen and to act in a responsible fashion. So we can all get back to work and school and move toward normal in a way that will keep our families, healthy and safe.
  • “Let me remind everyone again. The stay at home order in Illinois is still very much in effect. All of us must maintain social distancing, wear masks in public and keep non-essential businesses closed until we can lower our still increasing hospitalizations and lower ICU bed use. The danger has not passed yet, no matter whether you live, in little Egypt, or in Freeport, or in Quincy, or in Chicago. We are making much of progress, and much of the progress that we had hoped to make.”

April 24, 2020

 Today’s update from State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., included the following:

  • The executive order, in conjunction with emergency rules that ISBE will file early next week, will ensure that all high school seniors can graduate this year as expected, and all qualified educators and prospective educators can support our students in the fall as planned. ISBE will release detailed additional information regarding graduation and licensure flexibility early next week once the emergency rules are in place.
  • Updated guidance about clearing out classrooms in a safe and healthy way is included. All of today’s new guidance is marked with today’s date in red. Also included are guidance on graduation ceremonies, CARES Act funding utilization information, state grant info and guidance on extra-curricular activities.
  • A reminder that in stressful times, it’s important to watch for signs that our students might be in danger. Dr. Ayala shared a resource from the Department of Children and Family Services on what to look for.

In other website updates:

  • J.B. Pritzker’s newest Executive Order on education was posted early Friday afternoon on the Illinois State Board of Education website. In addition, ISBE’s guidance to educators was updated as a result. The order included the following:
    • For current candidates:
      • EdTPA is suspended for this year for current teacher candidates;
      • There is no need to complete student teaching this year;
      • Principals do not need to complete their internships this year;
      • The requirement for internships for endorsements to become a superintendent, chief business officer or principal is suspended for this year;
      • Requirement that school psychologists serve one-year supervised experience is suspended;
      • Requirement that SLPs serve 150 hours of school-based experience is suspended.
    • The following assessments and courses for 12th-grade students are suspended:
      • Required civics class and U.S. Constitution test;​
      • Physical education class​;
      • Consumer education class;
      • State assessments​;
      • Foreign language proficiency exam​;
      • Any school code that requires successful completion as pre-requisite for diploma​;
    • 12th grade students must be given credit for vocational or apprenticeship programs even if they were unable to complete the program because of remote learning;
    • 8th graders do not have to complete the U.S. Constitution test or complete U.S. History;
    • ISBE will have to issue emergency rules in order to effectuate the decrees in the Emergency ​
  • Pritzker expanded his Stay-At-Home order Thursday and said he’d sign the order next week. In Section 12, letter J of that order, the topic of retrieving one’s belongings from school buildings or dorms is addressed:

Educational institutions. Educational institutions—including public and private pre-K-12 schools, colleges, and universities—for purposes of facilitating distance learning, performing critical research, or performing essential functions, provided that social distancing of six-feet per person is maintained to the greatest extent possible. Educational institutions may allow and establish procedures for pick-up of necessary supplies and/or student belongings and dormitory move-out if conducted in a manner consistent with public health guidelines, including Social Distancing Requirements. This Executive Order is consistent with and does not amend or supersede Executive Order 2020-05 (COVID-19 Executive Order No. 3) or Executive Order 2020-06 (COVID-19 Executive Order No. 4) except that affected schools have been closed past the April 7, 2020 date reflected in those Orders;

  • NEA is partnering with other unions nationwide to host a tele-town hall Saturday at noon for frontline workers. Members are invited to participate in a tele-town hall with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The topic of discussion: how we use our collective power to advocate for working people in coronavirus relief legislation.​ Register here. Use the social media hashtag #ProtectAllWorkers to follow the conversation online.
  • Thursday’s 4@4 with IEA President Kathi Griffin and IEA Executive Director Audrey Soglin – addressing length of school year, stress levels, uncompleted evaluation defaults, whether paraprofessionals can be asked to do PD with technology and disciplined if they don’t have access and whether the Remote Learning Planning Days can be tacked on to the end of the school year.
  • Reserve the date! Tele town hall with State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala on Thurs., April 30 at 4 p.m. for all IEA members. More details on how to join will follow.
  • J.B. Pritzker’s daily update Friday, the Governor announced the State of Illinois was finally able to meet and exceed its goal of conducting at least 10,000 tests a day on Friday, and actually exceeded it, conducting more than 16,000 tests. In the past 24 hours, 2,724 people tested positive and another 108 Illinoisans died. There have been 39,658 who have tested positive and 1,795 people who have died. There are currently six counties of Illinois’ 102 that have no cases. The Governor has also announced he will extend the state’s Stay-At-Home order until the end of May, allowing some state parks to open, elective surgeries to take place, retail stores not open before now to offer curbside pick-up and delivery, and some other changes., including social distancing and wearing a facial covering.

April 22, 2020

Today’s update from State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., included the following:

  • Provisional Identification and Placement Procedures During Remote Learning Situations Grades Pre-K to 12 Guidance was posted Wednesday afternoon on the ISBE site. According to the description: “This procedure provides a means of provisionally identifying English Learners if face-to-face screening is not possible during remote learning situations. This process may not replace the formal identification process when face-to-face screening is possible; formal screening for any student who has been given a provisional status must take place as soon as possible once school resumes normal operations.”
  • Ayala has an urgent request to help supply cleaning supplies “even a gallon or two of disinfectant” to those providing daycare to the state’s first responders and essential workers. A list of child care centers that can be sorted in many ways, including by school district or county, is posted on ISBE’s website.

In other website updates:

  • The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Teaching Lab has developed an amazing website and resources for America’s sudden move to online education. Included on the right-hand side of the page is guidance MIT has developed, along with a spreadsheet with information about what every state is doing, what they are calling their programs and the guidance each state has provided to educators, among other data points.
  • And, Google created a toolkit for at home teaching/learning.
  • Tuesday’s 4@4 with IEA President Kathi Griffin and IEA Executive Director Audrey Soglin
  • The NEA Board of Directors held a meeting of the whole on Sunday and a business meeting on Monday and decided to hold a virtual Representative Assembly this summer. The RA will be held July 2-3, three to four hours each day. They will address the following items:
    • Strategic goals and budget​
    • Listening to internal NEA candidates (paper ballots will be mailed to delegates)​
    • Presidential race recommendation (paper ballots will be mailed to delegates)
  • RA Local Delegate Election Clarification — IEA felt it was important to provide some clarification of NEA RA Local Delegate Election Guidance in regard to cluster delegates and the Q and A has been updated to reflect this. Each local should determine which option is best for the election of delegates, unless included in a cluster. Regions should only determine which option is best for election of cluster delegates. If a local or cluster did not receive any nominations for 2020 NEA RA delegate, the term of the 2019 delegates can be extended for 2020. The declaration of election of 2020 delegates and extension of term for 2019 delegates can’t be combined.
  • JB Pritzker announced new relief options Tuesday for those with non-federal student loans, which applies to about 138,000 Illinoisans. He said there will be additional relief to those who are having problems making payments on Federal Family Education Program Loans or privately-held student loans due to the pandemic. Options include making sure no one can receive a negative credit rating during this time, to cease debt collection lawsuits, provide a minimum of 90 days of forbearance and waive late payment fees. The Governor said Illinois is working in conjunction with several other states on this plan and is so new some lenders may not be up to speed on it, but those with loans can immediately contact loan providers for relief. On Wednesday, it was announced that there were 98 more COVID-19-related deaths in the past 24 hours, for a total of 1,565, and an additional 2,049 new cases, for a total of 35,018.

April 20, 2020

Today’s update from State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., included the following:

  • Special Education Guidance – Many IEA members have been reaching out and asking for more guidance in regard to helping their special ed students under these new circumstances. From the document: “The questions and answers contained within this document are meant to serve as a guide for schools during suspension of in-person instruction when implementing remote learning with students with disabilities in relation to federal and state regulations. General information on remote learning is available on the ISBE website, and resources for use with special education students can be found here. Districts, special education cooperatives, private special education schools, alternative schools, and nonpublic private parochial schools should reference the ED Q&A, ED Supplemental Fact Sheet, and Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Fact Sheet to find additional information from a federal perspective on the provision of education and related services for students with disabilities.”
  • The Council of Chief State School Officers has also shared a special effort for educators, by educators, focused on students with disabilities. CCSSO joined nearly 30 education advocacy and disability rights organizations to form the Educating All Learners Alliance. That coalition has assembled a platform for ensuring equity for all learners and the continuity of special education services during remote instruction, in the form of a website full of curated, searchable resources, complete with access to experts and examples from the field.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today that it has approved Illinois to operate the Pandemic EBT, a supplemental food purchasing benefit to current SNAP participants and as a new EBT benefit to other eligible households to offset the cost of meals that would have otherwise been consumed at school.
  • Ayala will send COVID-19 emails this week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Next week, she will reinstate the regular weekly message on Tuesdays and a specific COVID-19 email each Thursday.

In other updates today:

  • NEA has developed a summary of information and resources released on the U.S. Department of Education (USED) Website, COVID-19 Information and Resources for Schools and School Personnel, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Website, and the CDC Website to assist you in developing strategies related to the national health emergency. It is posted on the IEA website.
  • JB Pritzker said in his daily address that the number of Illinoisans hospitalized with the COVID-19 virus has been steadily increasing, jumping 316 people between Tuesday and Sunday for a total of 4,599. In addition, another 59 people died for a total of 1,151 and 1,349 were diagnosed with the virus in the past 24 hours for a total of 31,508 cases. He said Illinois has not hit its peak, though the growth has slowed, thanks to the stay-at-home order and social distancing measures that have been put in place.

April 17, 2020

The daily message from State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., included the following items:

Today’s other website updates include:

  • Ayala told labor management stakeholders Friday that the June 20 Evidence Based Funding payment will be made. She also indicated that the Governor’s office has received a Cares Act payment and ISBE is determining how to spend that money. She believes the bulk of it will go toward narrowing the digital divide for students in the state, so they can have better access to remote learning. She said in assessing the needs of students, ISBE learned that of 4000 school buildings in the state, there are fewer than 100 that do not have up-to-date internet connectivity. However, one third of students in the state don’t have access to their own devices or reliable internet. She also said a portion of ISBE’s money will be used on professional development for educators and a portion will be used to start a Student Care department at ISBE focused on student safety and well-being.
  • Throughout the school closure, IEA has been hearing from educators about the challenges of meeting the goals of their students’ IEPs during remote learning. We encourage you to share your stories with NEA so they can, in turn, share them with federal lawmakers and the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Please take a minute to watch this video that shows the strength of IEA members as they continue to teach, feed and support Illinois’ students while advocating for their needs. Share widely.
  • Webinar: A blueprint for racial justice in a global pandemic
  • The crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic is especially brutal for Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. This is the result of centuries of health and economic inequities, coupled with the current administration’s eugenics policies – Whiteness at its core.
  • In this SpeakOut Ed Talk webinar, racial justice educator and author Dr. Jacqueline Battalora explains and examines Whiteness to help us better understand and strategize how we might achieve true racial justice within our daily work as well as institutional structures and practices.
  • Join SpeakOut for this webinar! Reserve your spot HERE. It’s Tues., April 21, 3 p.m. There is a $5 fee. The fees go to the speakers’ fund. You can participate at the time of the webinar or watch later. There are several in the series.
  • JB Pritzker announced in his daily update Friday that school buildings will remain closed for the remainder of this academic year and districts will continue with the remote learning plans. He said that because the decision affected more than 2 million Illinois students, he didn’t make it lightly.
  • “My decisions are hard ones, but they will follow the science,” he said. “It’s not just a question of tradition and sentimentality. There is also a drop in instructional time, summer learning loss. We have an educational landscape where some have more experience in remote learning than others. My priority remains unchanged. How do we save the most lives?”
  • He had message for teachers who didn’t get to say a proper goodbye: “My heart is with you. Your efforts to reach your students in a new and special way means the world to them and to me.”
  • He talked to administrators, graduating seniors, parents and to all other students.
  • “To children of all ages, your parents and I never experienced anything like this. The hard things we did go through, we learned from,” he said. “You’ll learn what it looks like to see a world come together. We’ll come out on the other side and on the other side we’ll appreciate the best of before and have a greater sense of connection and compassion.”
  • It was also announced during the update that Illinois had its greatest number of cases in any one 24-hour period with 1,842, for a total of 27,575. There were an additional 62 deaths, for a total of 1,134 lives lost in 92 of the states 102 counties.

April 16, 2020

The daily message from State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., included the following items:

  • A reminder about tomorrow’s deadline to count all current and newly eligible students who qualify for free or reduced lunch;
  • Examples of ways to reach out to seniors and keep in touch with families and students.

Today’s other website updates include:

  • Offering a heads up that there is a reporter with The Hechinger Report named Sarah Burtrymowicz who contacted IEA for comments about Illinois’s pension systems and the impending recession, as well as the effects of a squeezed education budget on educators’ classrooms. IEA didn’t think it was a good time to discuss pensions or classroom effects during the COVID-19 outbreak and declined the interview. Now, Burtrymowicz is contacting individual local presidents around the state. If you are contacted by her, feel free to decline the interview, or direct her to the IEA Communications Department. Thank you.
  • Jill Biden wants to hear from you. NEA President Lily Eskelsen García and NEA member Dr. Jill Biden invite all NEA members to a tele-townhall, Thursday, April 23, to hear from educators about what they need during these challenging times. Town hall registration link.
  • Please check out IEA President Kathi Griffin and IEA Executive Director Audrey Soglin as they answer four member questions at 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays on social media on 4@4, today’s edition.
  • JB Pritzker announced Thursday that he is partnering with the Governors of Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana and Kentucky on how the Midwestern states can respond to COVID-19 to most effectively re-open with a fact-driven approach. He also updated Illinois residents on testing, saying improvements to the biggest testing machines will allow the state to ramp up testing by the thousands in the coming week and gave an update to the state’s supply of personal protective gear. In addition, Illinois recorded its highest number of deaths in 24 hours at 125 deaths, for a total of 1,072, and an additional 1,140 new cases, for a total of 24,733.

April 15, 2020

The daily update from State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., included the following items:

  • Please be sure to check out today’s updated ISBE guidance. It includes information on Career and Technical Education/Perkins V and agricultural education.
  • A reminder to districts to verify every student eligible for free or reduced-price meals, so the families can qualify for the Pandemic EBT. Some may be newly-qualified because of circumstances caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. These students must be verified by Friday. Instructions can be found here.
  • Nominate your School Lunch Hero by May 1. The contest is sponsored by the School Nutrition Association and you can find out more about the contest here.

Other items from today include:

  • We have an NEA RA elections update. The deadline for locals and regions to report NEA RA local delegates to IEA has been extended to May 8. Those locals/clusters that have not conducted the election or have conducted the election but not the tally still have the option to tally ballots or conduct mail ballot elections. The IEA Executive Committee approved two additional options:
  • Write-in requirement waived – if the number of candidates is less than or equal to the number of delegate positions, candidates can be declared elected.
  • Extend the term of existing eligible NEA RA delegates (2019) to serve this year via a request in writing.
  • Please see this guidance document for additional details.
  • Here is the NEA Executive Committee’s recommendation to hold a limited 2020 Virtual RA. The document includes the rationale for the recommendation and that the NEA Directors will be making a decision regarding this recommendation Mon., April 20.
  • JB Pritzker is holding a press conference Friday on education issues and his executive orders on education will likely be released on Friday. Supt. Ayala has been asked to attend that press conference.
  • Jill Biden wants to hear from you. NEA President Lily Eskelsen García and NEA member Dr. Jill Biden invite all NEA members to a tele-townhall, Thursday, April 23, to hear from educators about what they need during these challenging times.
  • A group of IEA members and staff have developed a set of mindfulness resources to help members, students, parents and community members cope during the COVID-19 outbreak. Links to the page are listed in the Resources section of both the public and private COVID-19
  • The Teachers’ Retirement System Member Call Center is up and running, though response times may be delayed as employees are abiding by Gov. JB Pritzker’s stay-at-home order.
  • JB Pritzker, in his daily update, painted a bleak picture for the state’s finances. He said there will be a $2.7 billion shortfall in the current fiscal year and a $4.6 billion budget shortfall in fiscal year 2021. If the fair tax fails, those numbers climb to $6.2 billion and $7.4 billion. State budgets, he said, are depending on taxes from sales, income, lottery, etc. With income taxes being delayed until July 15, sales taxes dropping due to business closures and other changes, the public health crisis has taken its toll on budgets across the country. He said it’s imperative that the federal government pass a Cares Act 2 to help. NEA is asking members to take action on this, as well. And, he’s asking state agencies to make cuts and doing a short-term borrow, as well. “This crisis will take us off course for at least a little while,” he said. “When I said we were all in this together, it’s true. We are ONE Illinois. It’s also true across this country.
  • In addition, there were 1,346 new cases for a total of 24,593 cases in Illinois and 80 deaths in the past 24 hours for a total of 948 lives lost.

April 14, 2020

The daily message from State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., contains the following information:

  • The Illinois Department of Human Services has launched a line for residents to seek mental health help to deal with the stresses caused by the COVID-19 outbreak and all the changes it has caused to our lives. It’s called Call4Calm and residents can text TALK or HABLAR (for a Spanish response) to 552-020 and within 24 hours, someone will respond. You can also text one word questions on other topics, such as “unemployment,” “food,” “shelter,” etc.
  • ISBE has also launched its own podcast for informative purposes.

In other updates:

  • There are two updates to the $2 trillion CARES Act estimates for PreK-12 and higher education institutions. The CARES Act estimates for Illinois can be found on the Illinois State Board of Education site and are estimated to be about $570 million. The second estimate can be found on the U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education page. In it, there are two columns. The first is the total estimated amount for the institution and the second is the estimated first installment, which has been directed to go to students. The second payment is expected to go to the institution itself.
  • The IEA, Illinois Federation of Teachers, Illinois Association of School Administrators and Illinois Principals Association issued a joint letter today asking local associations and districts to work together to see if they can come up with a plan to help out the Illinois Department on Aging as it looks for volunteers to deliver meals to senior citizens.

The state agency has two programs it normally runs that have been affected by the novel COVID-19 outbreak – one is a meal delivery program to senior citizens (many of the volunteers who do the deliveries are also senior citizens who are now shut in because they are an endangered population) and a day program where senior citizens go to a location to partake in activities and also eat a meal. There are 399 day programs throughout the state that were shut down as a result of the outbreak.

The agency is looking for ways to deliver meals to many of the people who were regular attendees of the day programs. The catch? Those who volunteer to make the deliveries need to have background checks. This makes school district employees uniquely qualified to volunteer to help with the meal deliveries. No face-to-face contact is required. See here for more information.

  • Join IEA President Kathi Griffin and IEA Executive Director Audrey Soglin for the twice weekly 4@4, where they answer four member questions on social media at 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Here is the April 14 version.
  • There will be a survey of teachers and support staff in partnership with IFT and ISBE regarding well-being, challenges, stressors, and what is going well with remote learning​ in the coming weeks.
  • Special education guidance from the state – important to note this guidance is from the state, which is trying to do its best on this in the absence of any more guidance from the federal government — is expected this week​
  • Executive order expected on Wednesday that revolves around education. Here are some of the items we expect to be in it:
    • Student teachers who have completed coursework and not completed classroom student teaching experience will be allowed to teach in the fall. EdTPA will be waived.
    • Current teachers in the process of renewal by June 30th will be given an extension for one year.
    • Waiver of the paraprofessional competency test through at least Aug. 30.
    • Short-term approval will be granted to teaching candidates missing one or more content tests.
    • Considering what to do about the language proficiency test for ELL teachers.
    • Guidance for high school graduation.
  • The University of Illinois has created a resource guide to workplace safety in the age of COVID-19. There is now a link to this in the standing list of resources on both the public and private Coronavirus pages on the IEA website.
  • Take Action: Ask your members to urge Congress to do more to help America fight back against COVID-19. More money is needed for the Education Stabilization Fund to help fill state budget gaps so students don’t suffer and educators aren’t laid off. Congress should Increase funding for the E-Rate program by at least $2 billion to help close the “homework gap” experienced by students who don’t have access to the internet at home. Send an email today.
  • Governor Pritzker said Tuesday that opening Illinois back up will all come down to three things: “Test, trace and treat,” and he said he hopes President Trump will help in those efforts. He said it will likely come down to designing a new normal. There were an additional 74 deaths in the past 24 hours and 1,222 more cases for totals of 23,347 cases and 868 lives lost across 88 of Illinois’s 102 counties.

April 9, 2020

Today’s message from State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., contained the following items:

  • The new Pandemic EBT will allow families who are newly struggling financially to take part in the National School Lunch Program. ISBE is asking that for information to be collected on the topic by April 17.
  • Kenilworth School District 38 is making a very generous offer to communities that need assistance with its “The Giving Back Project.” Incoming principal of The Joseph Sears Schools, Dr. Stephanie Helfand is inviting any school official in Illinois to submit requests for its district’s needs – such as technology, supplies, or food – through the project’s online form, or to email Dr. Helfand.

In other information:

  • Emergency rules updates on ISBE’s website posted Thursday evening:
    • Amendment to Part 120 in regard to transportation costs — Emergency Amendment ensures that contracts related to the provision of transportation or a transportation provider under a written agreement, regardless of any service that may be provided, are allowable and reimbursed. 
    • Amendment to Emergency Amendment to Part 226 regarding payment to private special education institutions — Emergency Amendment​  provides that school districts will be reimbursed for special education private facility tuition expenditures per the statutory formula under Section 14-7.02 of the School Code, and also notes that school districts will be reimbursed for special education room and board expenditures under Part B of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
  • NEA is conducting webinars on how the CARES Act could impact student loan debt.​ The first was Tuesday and more than 5,000 people registered. There were technical difficulties and not everyone was able to get on. Everyone who registered is being sent a link to a recording of the webinar.​ A second is scheduled for 4.14.20 at 7 p.m.​ You can register here. As a heads up, NEA is Hustling all potential members who indicated “student loan debt relief” as an interest with a link to the webinar. ​
  • Penalty Waivers for ALL locals for March – April: IEA will be waiving penalty fees for the period of March 7 through April 3. This waiver only applies to penalties that would have been assessed for late payments due by April 1. Please see additional information to be emailed to local presidents, treasurers and membership chairs.
  • Thursday’s 4@4 with IEA President Kathi Griffin and IEA Executive Director Audrey Soglin.
  • NEA is inviting local leaders to participate in a Zoom meeting Monday evening in which it will discuss virtual engagement tactics that address the following topics: using Facebook to “boost” posts such as video selfies, utilizing social media to increase membership, moving union meetings to virtual settings, promoting online petitions to seek demands, sharing virtual learning activity ideas and more.
  • There will also be time for participants to share ideas and ask questions of each other and presenters.
  • It will be Mon., April 13 at 5 p.m. You must register in advance. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with information about joining the meeting.
  • On Thursday, JB Pritzker said in his daily update that Illinois’s “rate of rise is looking less and less exponential” and that the “data show the numbers are growing more slowly,” both of which were good news. He also noted that “Illinois is home to the kindest and most generous people. More than 45,000 people have offered to volunteer to help” through the state’s many websites where volunteers can sign up to provide medical help, donate blood or offer other services. He also announced the number of new deaths for the past 24 hours, 66, for a total of 528 and the number of new cases, 1,344, for a total of 16,422.

April 8, 2020

The daily message from State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., contained the following items:

In other new items:

  • ISBE issued updated guidance today on its website that includes information on SAT, PSAT 10, and PSAT 8/9 materials; the Constitution exam; CARES Act funding; ISBE data collections; and addressing remote learning concerns, including Transitional Math, GPA calculations, final quarters/trimesters, transitioning to sequential courses, and administration of final exams. ISBE also posted a fact sheet on U.S. Department of Education grant funds during the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • IEA was informed of its first loss of a member this week. Steve Hudson, 51, died April 5.
  • An article in the Chicago Tribune about Illinoisans lost to the COVID-19 outbreak paid a wonderful tribute to Hudson, who spent many years as an assistant dean at Academy for Learning in Dolton (Region 55) and was also hired last year as the assistant athletic director at Thornwood High School in South Holland (Region 27).
  • “I can say this with clear mind,” Vaccaro said. “Steve Hudson was put on this earth to help kids who really needed a lot of help. I’ve met a lot of people over my lifetime. Steve was never one to mention himself or ask, ‘Can you get me this?’ or, ‘Will you let me sponsor a game?’ He was Mac’s guy. Mac Irvin and Steve Hudson helped the kids in the inner city of Chicago as much as anyone I’ve ever seen.”
  • IEA has developed a protocol for any members who pass away. If you should learn of the death of a member, please let IEA President Kathi Griffin or IEA Executive Director Audrey Soglin know.
  • The CARES Act applications for districts and higher education institutions have not yet been distributed and they are being pushed for by ISBE and other states. Any numbers circulating at this point are only estimates​. The message being sent to districts by ISBE is that when CARES money comes in, they need to be intentional, judicious and forward thinking about how they apply for the money and it should be used to offset any expenses incurred during COVID. It should not be used for something they’ve been wanting to do.​ We encourage all of our locals to be prepared for conversations regarding how best to spend this money (once allocated) on incurred COVID19 costs.
  • High school graduation requirements are coming under consideration by ISBE—expect a working group to result in an Executive Order on requirements. Licensure issues will also be addressed through an Executive Order.​
  • ISBE is looking for exemplary grading policies in order to share. If your district has come up with a good, workable policy, please send these examples to your UniServ Director who will get those examples to ISBE.
  • ISBE is giving the following advice on special education: Until the United States Department of Education issues changes to the rules:​
    • Check the federal guidance;​
    • Check ISBE rules​;
    • Check district policies.​

All stakeholders are concerned about this – NEA continues to advocate for changes. Expect an update from NEA tomorrow.

  • JB Pritzker announced during his daily update Wednesday that while he’d hoped the state would be able to conduct 10,000 tests per day by today, it’s only able to conduct just above 6,000. He said there are several reasons for that, but that the buck stops with him. So, he announced a plan to expand testing within the state to try to ramp up testing. Until Illinois can conduct 10,000 tests per day, he said, we won’t really know the extent of the spread of the virus. In addition, the novel COVID-19 virus has now spread to 78 of Illinois’s 102 counties. There have been an additional 82 deaths in the last 24 hours, for a total of 462 deaths and an additional 1,529 people diagnosed positive, for a total of 15,078 cases.

April 7, 2020

The daily message from State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., contained information on the following topics:

  • Ayala has directed ISBE’s finance department to temporarily suspend all further refund due notifications and freezes that are currently applied to all fiscal year 2020 grant projects and will reassess the practice at a later date. Districts are “encouraged to assess outstanding expenditure reports that are due and submit them as needed.” Contact information is available in the daily message.
  • A program called All Means All: Making Remote Learning Work for Every Illinois Student is a free, facilitated space for Illinois teachers work together as they adapt to remote learning. National Board Certified Teachers and Illinois Teachers of the Year will work with Teach Plus to lead the sessions that are divided by grade bands and content area. Fill out this short registration form for the weekly sessions. Here is the schedule:
Grades K-2 Thursdays at 8-9am Grades 9-12 ELA Wednesdays at 3-4pm
Grades K-2 Thursdays at 3-4pm Grades 9-12 Science Thursdays at 3-4pm
Grades 3-5 Fridays at 8-9am Grades 9-12 Math – TBD
Grades 3-5 Fridays at 3-4pm Grades 9-12 SS – TBD
Grades 6-8 Math Fridays at 3-4pm Early Childhood Education – TBD
Grades 6-8 Science Wednesdays at 4-5pm Arts – TBD
Grades 6-8 ELA/SS Thursdays at 2-3pm CTE – TBD
Grades 9-12 ELA Wednesdays at 9-10am
  • The National Council for Geographic Education is hosting a webinar to help AP Human Geography teachers inform students about this year’s exam on Wed., April 15 at 6:30 p.m. For more information and registration, check here.

In other updates:

  • As promised, here is a link to the recording of the April 6 tele town hall for IEA presidents and board.
  • Episode two of the twice weekly 4@4 with IEA President Kathi Griffin and IEA Executive Director Audrey Soglin with where Kathi and Audrey answer four questions from members at 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Members can submit questions through IEA Connect, via email, through live chat on the IEA website, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, or by phone at 844-IEA-1800 from Monday to Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Or, members can post questions in the comment section below the 4@4 videos.
  • The IEA store, Shop IEA, was set to open for one more round of purchasing this spring, but due to the novel COVID-19 virus outbreak, the merchandise provider was forced to close. Please watch for the store to reopen in August and thank you for your patience.
  • JB Pritzker announced the largest number of COVID-19-related deaths to date on Tuesday at 73 within the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 380 across 77 of Illinois’s 102 counties. There were also another 1,287 cases for a total of 13,549 people diagnosed. Pritzker said a week ago, COVID-29 patients were using 35 percent of intensive care unit space and 24 percent of the state’s ventilators. Today, they are using 43 percent of ICU space and 29 percent of the state’s ventilators. In addition, the state has started to survey those who have been diagnosed to try to determine the recovery rate and have found 43 percent recover within seven days of being diagnosed. They also found that 68 percent of the state’s cases are in people under the age of 50, but 80 percent of the state’s fatalities have been older people.

April 6, 2020

The daily message from State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., contained the following information:

  • Links to the Remote Learning Recommendations in Spanish, Polish and Arabic;
  • A webinar for families and caregivers, sponsored by Action for Healthy Kids and Kaiser Permanente, on how families can partner with educators while transitioning to distance learning. The first 30-minute webinar will be Wednesday at 1 p.m. Register here.
  • A masking service to hide your caller ID. The company is offering the service free to districts in Illinois and Indiana until June 1. Here is a YouTube video about it and here is where you sign up.
  • We’d encourage you to read the last part of Dr. Ayala’s letter today about being kind to each other and to yourselves. In it, she refers to this article.

In other information:

  • The Centers for Disease Control is now asking that people wear a covering over their faces when they go out. Here is the reasoning and instructions on how to make your own, since facemasks are sold out nationwide.
  • The National Education Association is hosting a webinar on student loan relief and the COVID-19 relief law on Tues., April 7 at 1 p.m. Members can register here.
  • Educators, and particular educators of color, have been burdened by student debt for far too long. The COVID-19 crisis risks making that debt even more burdensome.
  • Recently, Congress enacted the CARES Act, a COVID-19 relief law that includes big changes to federal student loans starting this Friday, April 10.
  • NEA Government Relations and Office of General Counsel staff will dive into the details of how the CARES Act impacts you and the student loans you may have on the April 7, 1 p.m. webinar. It will include:
  • Details on the student loan provisions in the CARES Act; what it means for members and what members should be thinking about doing with student loans during the suspension period; the support available through NEA Member Benefits to help members manage their loans; and what members can do to fight for broader suspension and cancellation of their loans.
  • Once you register, you’ll get an email with the log in instructions for the webinar. This webinar will be recorded and shared.
  • JB Pritzker announced Monday that there were 1006 new cases of the novel COVID-19 virus diagnosed overnight for a total of 12,262 cases in Illinois and an additional 33 deaths, bringing the total to 307. He also talked about all the work state government has had to do to try to secure enough medical supplies to see Illinois through this public health crisis. Instead of being able to rely on the federal stockpile, as in years past, Illinois has had to bid against other states, and the federal government, when it finds suppliers for the materials. And, the numbers of materials it received from the stockpile were so small, it would last Illinois only days.

April 3, 2020

The daily message from State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., is posted publicly on the Illinois State Board of Education website. In it today:

  • Instructions about the Illinois Assessment of Readiness
  • ISBE is trying to make sure all students who need food get it. It is particularly concerned that students may be newly qualified to receive free or reduced meals as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. It is urging districts to reassess who qualifies by April 17 and provides info on who to contact for help. Also include are links to: the “Meals for Kids” interactive map (available in English and Spanish) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Finder and Nutrislice to help families locate needed food, and USDA National Hunger Hotline for anyone seeking food assistance.
  • Illinois educational entities, including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, ISBE, the Illinois Board of Higher Education, educators from around the state, ed prep faculty and others have partnered to build LearnAway!, a website where educators teaching birth to 12thgrade can find and share resources, curriculum and ideas to support remote learning.
  • And, a weebly site created by Laura Schroeder, a teacher at LaGrange Area Department of Special Education, a co-op of 15 districts, with resources for students who need speech therapy, occupational therapy or adaptive physical education.

Other updates from today include:

  • As a reminder, the tele town hall for board members and presidents will be at 5 p.m., Mon., April 6. In preparation for the event, you should receive a pre-call on Sunday afternoon or evening. If, for some reason, you do not get a pre-call notice on Sunday, please chat with IEA Connect (https://ieanea.org/ieaconnect/) about your ability to connect to the tele town hall.
  • The NEA has provided six one-pagers on various aspects of the CARES Act to provide guidance until the federal government gives more information. The six areas of concentration are: CARE Act payments, Education Stabilization Fund, Student Loans, Unemployment Insurance, ESSA Waivers and School Meals. If you share this with members, please use this link: https://ieanea.org/coronavirus/#federal-cares-act
  • IEA offices are currently closed, due to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive orders, but staff continues to work remotely. However, next weekend, the IEA calendar has two holidays scheduled, April 10 and April 13. IEA offices will be closed and IEA staff will not be working either of those days.
  • Pritzker gave his daily update from McCormick Place near downtown Chicago on Friday afternoon. The massive convention center was empty a week ago and due to construction crews and the Illinois National Guard, it’s now home to 500 hospital rooms, 14 nursing stations and supply rooms.

“I am overwhelmed with pride and patriotism,” Pritzker said of the facility, which is now the largest hospital in Illinois. “This is Illinois. THIS, is Illinois.”

He also announced that there were 1,209 more cases of the novel COVID-19 virus diagnosed since Thursday, for a total of 8,904, and 53 more deaths, for a total of 210, statewide.

April 2, 2020

The daily message from State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph.D., contained several items of interest. In it was:

In other news:

The wrong link was posted for the updated guidance document for NEA RA delegate, local and region elections. It has been corrected.

4@4 — We started a new feature today. IEA President Kathi Griffin and IEA Executive Director Audrey Soglin will answer four member questions at 4 p.m. each Tuesday and Thursday and the video will appear on our social media pages. If members want to submit a question, they can do so in the comments underneath the video, or they can submit them to IEA Connect by email, live chat on the IEA website or by calling 844-IEA-1800.

IEA staff began sending out wellness check texts to members today (April 2) and sharing resources with them. Because each text must be sent individually, this project will continue for at least a week. Any issues that come up that need to be addressed by a local president or UniServ Director will be flagged at the end of the day for the president or UD and shared with them. Members have been incredibly receptive to this project and thankful that we’re touching base.

Drawing your attention, once again, to vetted resources on remote learning, talking with students about the novel COVID-19 virus and many other resources is updated daily on both the private and public IEA Covid-19 webpages.

Updated ISBE Guidance was posted on April 1. This is a very helpful document when looking for basic answers on topics and it’s organized by subject matter.

Gov. JB Pritzker’s daily update: Urged all residents to stay home, all over the state – no matter what area of the state you live in. He and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike warned that even though people have tested positive for the virus in only 61 of 102 of Illinois’ counties, the virus is present everywhere. They announced the website www.allin.illinois.gov. He also announced 16 more deaths for a total of 157 and 715 new cases for a total of 7,695.

April 1, 2020

Today’s update from State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala, Ph. D., has an updated comprehensive FAQ regarding information on attendance, as well as information on remote learning, Remote Learning Days, transportation and school construction.

In the Governor’s daily message today, he encouraged people to go to the U.S. Census webpage and take time to complete the online census form. He reminded Illinois that the census helps drive funding for many of our state activities including many aspects of education. Finally, the Governor shared that there were 986 new COVID-19 cases and 42 additional deaths reported today in Illinois. That is a total of 6,980 cases and 141 deaths thus far in the state.

Tonight, ISBE reports on a new podcast which celebrates extraordinary educators and connects schools with great ideas while learning remotely. The first episode of We Love Illinois Schools raises awareness about the 2020 Census.

Please review and share the updated guidance document for NEA RA delegate, local and region elections.

NEA has provided two helpful resources:

We have received a few questions around home privacy issues while using Zoom for virtual lessons. Several teleconferencing options do have the ability to blur background images and Zoom uses a feature called “Virtual Background” for theirs. Some third-party companies like Canva have designed backdrops for Zoom conferences, as well.

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