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District 158 releases back-to-school COVID protocols

Masks and social distancing remain mandatory for indoor learning

by Jim Masters

LANSING, Ill. (August 10, 2021) — Back to school for Lansing School District 158 students does not mean back to normal, considering the ongoing concerns about COVID-19.

While all students will be back to school on-premises beginning August 18, they must wear face masks throughout the day, and the same goes for teachers and staff at all schools.

In a letter to parents, Dr. Nathan Schilling, Superintendent of Schools, said District 158’s Phase IV Reopening Plan is being implemented under “near normal, but not fully restored, circumstances.”

“Although COVID-19 vaccinations have become readily available and positivity rates have decreased, the health pandemic — including highly contagious variants of the disease — continues to be a concern,” he said.

COVID-19 protocols

Schilling emphasized that District 158 will follow current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines. Phase IV protocols include the items listed below:

  • Cleaning and sanitation procedures from the E-Learning & Reopening Transition Plan last year will remain in place. All schools will continue to provide health resources, such as hand sanitizer.
  • Face masks will be required for everyone on school buses and inside District 158 schools, including staff, students, and visitors regardless of vaccination status. This includes activities before and after the regular student day. Face masks may not always be required outdoors per CDC guidelines.
  • Social distancing of at least three feet will be maintained as much as possible. However, it is understood that in some circumstances, such as meal service, it may not be possible to do this entirely.
  • Temperature checks for students will not be conducted. However, staff may still take student temperatures throughout the day if issues are identified or reported.
  • Frequent hand washing, self-screening of symptoms, contact tracing, improved ventilation systems in school buildings, and similar health and safety procedures will be sustained from last school year.
  • Students who are required to quarantine due to COVID-19 issues will be provided remote learning with staff support and communication in a manner consistent with how other absences may be handled. This includes a combination of virtual and/or paper-based educational activities.
  • Breakfast and lunch procedures may be modified to provide additional COVID-19 mitigations, such as seating fewer students at tables and/or in rooms, and using modified schedules or multiple rooms.
  • For students with significant medical issues (immunocompromised) for which documentation can be provided, homebound services may be available during Phase IV. Families should contact District 158’s Student Services Department with questions or for more information about this program.
  • If necessary, wave busing of students may be utilized for arrivals and dismissals. In these cases, extended learning opportunities may be offered to students who are dropped off early or picked up late from school. Students should not enter elementary school buildings before 8:15 a.m. during Phase IV.
  • In certain circumstances, additional safety procedures such as plexiglass barriers, extended social distancing, face shields, etc. may be utilized by staff in order to remove face masks when necessary.
  • COVID-19 vaccination and testing information may continue to be shared with stakeholders in a variety of formats as this becomes publicly available.

More information to come

Schilling said the reopening procedures were developed with input from staff, families, the Lansing Education Association, and the District 158 Board of Education. He added that more information related to each school building will be released in the near future.

“Please don’t hesitate to reach out to the office of your child’s school with any questions about our reopening,” said Schilling. “District 158 is committed to resuming near normal schooling for our students during Phase IV while maintaining safety procedures consistent with public health recommendations.”

He noted that the reopening procedures and protocols will be reevaluated on an ongoing basis.


Jim Masters
Jim Masters
Jim Masters grew up on 191st Street in Lansing. He attended Nathan Hale Elementary, was a member of St. Ann Church, graduated with the first graduating class at Heritage Middle School, and graduated from TF South High School in 1981. Inspired by his journalism teacher Joe Hyde, Jim earned a BA in Journalism from Northern Illinois University. He has more than 25 years of experience as beat reporter, specializing in government, politics, criminal justice, human interest stories, and education.


  1. The picture above must have been taken in the spring of 2021 during the last school year when most of the students were still e-learning. This fall, there are no plastic dividers at desks and the desks in the classroom are MUCH closer together because you have to fit all of the students in the room. The distance between desks in my child’s classroom are the same as when I was in grade school 30 years ago. Thank you for all your reporting on what’s going on in our schools. I just want to make sure there are no misunderstandings from readers (or parents) who haven’t had a chance to see this year’s classrooms in person.

    • Thank you for that clarification, Anna. You are correct, it was an older photo we had on file, and we don’t want to give anyone the wrong impression. I’ve removed the photo from this post, though it may still show as the header image when we share this post.

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