Illinois State Board of Education votes to require in-person learning for all students next year

School districts no longer need to offer remote learning as an option
CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Illinois State Board of Education voted Wednesday to send all students across the state back into classrooms next school year, without knowing if younger children will be eligible for vaccines by then.

For families that want to stay in remote learning, officials say the new resolution will limit that ability. In addition, it means districts no longer have to offer it as an option.

"Our top priority is our students, and we know that in most cases, in-person learning is in their best interest," Illinois State Board of Education Superintendent Dr. Carmen Ayala said.

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Board members approved a resolution Wednesday requiring daily in-person learning this fall with limited exceptions for remote learning.

"I absolutely agree that the best place for our students is back in school back every day," said Supt. Tony Sanders, Elgin Area School District U46.

Sanders, who leads the state's second-largest school district, said he has mixed feelings on the decision.

"We're still in the middle of a pandemic, and so that leads to some concerns on the part of some families, parents, students who - whether they can get vaccinated or not - may not feel comfortable coming back yet," he said.

The unanimous vote came after parents expressed concern over children still too young to get the COVID vaccine.

But Chicago father Willie Preston said he's happy with the decision.

"As a Black man with six children in Chicago, I'm concerned about the achievement gap," Preston said.

The CPS parent said even though he doesn't plan to get his children vaccinated yet, the best place for them is still in a classroom.

"There's only so much that can be done online, and we want to make certain that our kids get the best possible education," Preston said.

Sanders said his message to the board was to please continue to give our districts options.
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