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Illinois students to remain out of school until at least April 8 after Pritzker extends closure

Chicago public schools, meanwhile, will stay closed until April 21.

Governor J.B. Pritzker, along with elected and health officials announce a shelter in place for the state of Illinois during the COVID-19 epidemic, Friday, March 20, 2020.
Governor J.B. Pritzker, along with elected and health officials announce a shelter in place for the state of Illinois during the COVID-19 epidemic, Friday, March 20, 2020.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker extended the state’s school closures Friday, keeping home more than 2.2 million elementary and high school students until at least April 8 while officials try to get a handle locally on the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement came as the governor issued a statewide stay-at-home order through April 7. Pritzker had previously ordered the state’s K-12 schools closed until March 31.

But even as Pritzker announced an extension for the state’s public and private school students, the governor said it was unclear when schools could open.

“I wish I could stand up here and tell you when your schools will safely re-open, but that is not an answer that I have at this time,” the governor said. “We’ll continue to update you with new information as we have it.”

Chicago Public Schools, meanwhile, are set to stay shut down until at least April 21, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday evening in a decision impacting the city’s 350,000 students.

“We need to give parents and guardians plenty of advance notice about this reality and the ability to plan,” Lightfoot said.

The mayor made the decision in consultation with city health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwardy and schools chief Janice Jackson “given what we anticipate as the continued upward trajectory of the virus spread.”

Pritzker and state education officials had hinted all week that a state postponement could come, too. The governor said Thursday “parents should be contemplating the possibility” that school openings could be moved back.

The missed days aren’t expected to be made up when schools re-open. The Illinois State Board of Education has said the closures are classified as “act of God” days, meaning they will still count toward the required number of school days.

ISBE has also said all school districts should pay their employees as if it was business as usual. In Chicago, CPS has said it will continue to pay all teachers and staff, including part-time staff and substitute teachers based on how often they typically work.