Giant Steps

20-21 return to school plan

Last updated: 10/7/2020

Note: All information in this document is fluid and subject to change as our plans are further developed through continued collaboration.

Giant Steps Commitment to Our Community

Giant Steps is dedicated to ensuring that all instruction, either in-person or remote, will be relevant and meaningful. All students deserve to be challenged and engaged in learning each day, in a safe, supportive environment. This school year, regardless of which learning model you select for your child, your child will receive learning opportunities every day that align with Giant Steps' curriculum and your child's IEP goals.

Giant Steps has taken many action steps to prepare for the 20-21 school year which include the following:

  • Surveying staff about their thoughts on returning to the building in the fall

  • Surveying parents about their thoughts on their child’s return to the building in the fall

  • Attending many webinars from different stakeholders (ISBE, attorneys, state-wide education groups, national education groups) to determine best practice for developing a back to school plan

  • Consulting with our school attorney about the policies we need to have in place regarding student mask-wearing, physical intervention, and overall how the state’s guidance should be interpreted for our student population

  • Consulting with our labor attorney about the policies we need to have in place to keep staff as safe and healthy as possible and understanding how our policies will need to flex/change in light of the current situation

  • Consulting with the Professional Crisis Management Association (PCMA) regarding CDC guidelines and certifications. PCMA is the credentialing body for Giant Steps and many agencies across the nation; and as such, is responsible for setting and maintaining high standards that can meet the rigorous need for the safety and well-being of our students and staff.

  • Working together as an organization to make sure our facilities, health protocols, and technology support the processes we will need for the fall semester

  • Systematically ordering, making and assembling PPE for the fall semester

  • Collaborating with our program staff about schedules, how we will have to adapt the use of materials, and cleaning needs with commonly used materials

General Overview of Plan (Updated 10/7/20)

Re-Open Illinois PHASE 1

GS Plan for support:

Remote Learning Plan

Additional Details:

All students/staff Remote Learn

Re-Open Illinois PHASE 2

GS Plan for support:

Remote Learning Plan

Additional Details:

All students/staff Remote Learn

Re-Open Illinois PHASE 3

GS Plan for support:

Remote Learning Plan

Additional Details:

All students/staff Remote Learn

Re-Open Illinois PHASE 4

GS Plan for support:

Three-stage re-entry plan

  • Stage 1: Full Remote Learning – Beginning Aug 24 – Sept 25, all students will participate in the remote model (Movement to Stage 2 is dependent on the infection rates remaining in an acceptable range).

  • Stage 2: Modified Blended Learning – Beginning Sept 28 – Oct 16, Cohort A students will attend on Mondays (or Tuesday, adjusted for holidays), and Cohort B students will attend on Fridays (Movement to Stage 3 is dependent on the infection rates remain in an acceptable range).

  • Stage 3: Full Blended Learning – Beginning Oct. 19, students whose families have chosen Blended Learning for the Fall will begin attending classes two days per week based on the student's Cohort. The Full Blended Learning model will continue until we either have a vaccine or we are in Phase 5 based on the State of Illinois standards.

    • The instructional option that you choose is a one-time election of remote versus in-person for the first semester. However, we will continue to monitor the progress of your child, and if changes need to be made to the type of instructional delivery or supports we will make these decisions through the IEP process.

  • Giant Steps will continue to reassess our school opening plan based on the current data from the primary communities we serve, the health department, and the State of Illinois.

Additional Details:

  • Giant Steps will implement a three-stage re-entry plan using an A/B student schedule for in-person attendance, comply with social distancing guidelines where possible, and with face masks/coverings being required at all times by students and staff.

    • Student and Staff safety is paramount. All IDPH/ISBE guidelines will be followed to ensure our facilities are safe and the students and staff are protected.

    • Students who are unable to wear a face covering for the entire program day (with the exception of eating/drinking) will have to have their primary care physician (PCP) fill out a form indicating if there is a medical contraindication to wear a face covering. The form will also allow the PCP to indicate if the student needs additional accommodations in place to access programming because they unable to wear a face covering.

  • Per ISBE’s guidance, “Daily attendance and engagement of students should be expected whether students are participating in classes in-person or remotely.” We will be monitoring the daily attendance for your child and will continue to be as proactive and collaborative as possible if your child is having difficulty participating in instruction in-person or remotely.


GS Plan for support:

Full Capacity-Resume Typical Instruction with No Restrictions

Additional Details:

All students/staff in-person learning model

Returning to School Academic Models

Remote Learning Track

It is important to us that these students are also able to receive both academic instruction from their teacher and at least one 30 minute live stream with every therapist. Additional priorities for a full remote scheduled will be:

  • Teachers will be providing at least 3 ELA and 3 Math lessons a week.

  • Science/Social Studies instruction offered remotely along with a Science/Social Studies enrichment class led by the Senior PA.

  • Remote students will be offered a 30 minute live stream with their teacher and/or SPA weekly (some classrooms will need to rotate instructors based on teacher schedules).

  • Pre-recorded PE and STEAM videos will also be shared every Wednesday.

  • Additional aspects regarding the schedule will be shared closer to fall.

Blended Learning

If you have chosen the blended learning model, your child will be coming to the Giant Steps building 2 days/week for in-person instruction. On these days, these are the priorities for their schedule:

  • 1 ELA and 1 Math class with their teacher for K-12 (1 Independent Living and 1 Vocational Skills class with teacher for Transition)

  • At least 45 min of each related service on their IEP (which could include OT, Speech, Social Work, Music Therapy)

  • Additional instruction related to IEP goals in the classroom

Each Wednesday, which is our full remote learning day for all students, the STEAM and PE instructors will be sharing remote lessons for students. Short interactive pre-recorded videos will be included in these lessons. Additional live streams or videos will be shared depending on your child’s individual schedule.

On the two additional remote learning days based on your Cohort schedule, the priorities will be on classroom instruction provided by your child's Special Education teacher and Senior Program Assistant. This will include both assigned work and live streams/video.

Please note that while we are excited about working on skill acquisition and taking data on goals, our primary focus in the fall is to support your child in transitioning back to the school environment safely. We know that re-establishing rapport and routines are essential to help your child thrive as a learner. Additionally we will have many new routines and expectations to create a safe learning environment. We recognize that there will be an adjustment period for staff and students alike.

Safety Considerations for In-Person Instruction

As we are working on developing your child’s schedule, here are some of our guiding principles:

  • There will be no more than 5 students in a room at any given time (including during lunch).

  • Each classroom will be assigned specific rooms that will not be shared by students from other classrooms. Each classroom will have the use of 2 classroom spaces (one of the critical reasons that we need to start in a blended model).

  • Students will remain almost entirely with students from their classroom only.

Community Based Instruction/Vocational Outings

We believe that working on skills in the community is one of the most important skills we can teach our students. While we will make every effort to get back to a place where every student is able to access the community weekly, we will NOT be taking students into the community at the start of the year. We believe that given our limited time in person, we need to prioritize other goals and keep our students in a more contained environment where we are setting the health and sanitation standards.

Transitioning Between Blended Model and Fully Remote Model

For those whose child is participating in blended learning, we do anticipate that there could be times that your child will need to transition to a fully remote schedule temporarily. Currently we anticipate three scenarios that would cause a transition to a fully remote model:

  • Illinois transitions back to Phase 1, 2 or 3 (now that there are 11 regions we are still working through how this impacts our school)

  • Giant Steps needs to close temporarily for quarantine (this would likely be a 2 week shift to full remote learning)

  • Your child’s classroom is asked to quarantine as a group (this would likely be a 2 week shift to full remote learning)


Whether a student is in the full remote learning model or the blended model, the state requires that we make daily contact with our students/family. Daily attendance will be taken based on your child’s schedule for being in-person or remote. The health policies shared in the fall will ask for strict adherence to students staying home when they are sick. Please know that while we are responsible for reporting attendance to your child’s home district on an ongoing basis, we understand that some students may need to be absent more than in previous years due to the nontraditional educational model being used at this time.

If your child is unable to attend a day of in-person sessions due to illness or pre planned absence, you will still need to call the daily attendance hotline (630-864-3800). Parents will be expected to report COVID Like Illness symptoms (CLI )a student is having on the hotline if the student is calling in sick. The Health Office will follow-up directly with parents who report their child has CLI symptoms.

Transportation (Updated 8/28/20)

Subject: COVID-19 requirements and special transportation

As we continue to get back into the rhythm of the 20-21 school year I want to continue to reinforce the information that has already been shared with you regarding the importance of using the next few weeks to continue to work with your child on their tolerance for wearing face-coverings prior to Giant Steps moving to our blended model with in-person instruction.

Special Transportation

Giant Steps partners with close to 50 school districts and there are a variety of transportation companies school districts use to transport our students to Giant Steps (e.g., Sunrise, Westway, Aurora, Hopewell, etc). Per ISBE guidance documents and the Student Transportation Aligned for Return to School document that has been provided to transportation companies, these companies have to follow the same guidelines for social distancing and PPE when transporting students. Transportation companies must also share their plan with school districts and families to address the safety measures necessary to adhere to COVID-19 requirements. Per guidance provided, all students will need to wear appropriate PPE/face-covering (in some cases both a mask and a face shield) prior to entering the bus. Parents will also need to complete the process for self-certification with your child’s transportation company (if required) and Giant Steps (required) indicating that your child is free of a fever and COVID-19 like symptoms prior to your child entering the bus.

It is important to note that a students inability to wear a face-covering for the length of their bus ride to Giant Steps could impact their ability to access district special transportation via the school bus and would require the IEP team to consider additional accommodations or alternative means of transportation that could be put in place.

Masks for Special Education Students

The guidance on this is very clear; all students must wear a multi-layered mask when they are in attendance inside a school building. All students will need to wear an appropriate face covering (mask AND/OR a face shield) on transportation, in the hallways, bathrooms or anywhere there is a situation where the 6 ft rule is not able to be maintained. When outside, students may remove their face covering as long as they maintain a six feet social distance between themselves.

Special education staff can make reasonable accommodations for students to have a scheduled break from their masks within their school day. If a student needs additional accommodations above and beyond the scheduled mask breaks and physician’s note would be needed for the team to engage in conversations about additional accommodations that could be put in place if requested by their medical professional and confirmed by Giant Steps team. This process is outlined under the Health/Wellness and Operational Plans sections of the Giant Steps 20-21 Return to School web page. Once the physician’s note is verified, your child’s special education team will work directly with you to determine the most appropriate plan.

The Giant Steps team will continue to do everything we can to provide students with direct instruction on wearing a face covering while we are in remote learning and when we are in-person with students. Please consider these two resources (here and here) to prepare your child for wearing a mask on the bus and while at school when we transition to in-person/blended instruction. You can also find additional resources for teaching COVID-19 requirements located on the Giant Steps 20-21 Return to School web page. Practicing each day in different environments AND for longer periods of time will be key to making your child as comfortable as possible for when they will need to wear a face-covering for the entire time on the bus in school.


Subject: Requisitos de COVID-19 y Transporte Especial

A medida que continuamos volviendo al ritmo del año escolar 20-21, quiero continuar reforzando la información que ya se ha compartido con ustedes sobre la importancia de usar las próximas semanas para continuar trabajando con su estudiante en su tolerancia al uso de cubiertas faciales antes de que Giant Steps se mude a nuestro modelo combinado con instrucción en persona.

Transporte Especial

Giant Steps se asocia con cerca de 50 distritos escolares y hay una variedad de compañías de transporte que los distritos escolares utilizan para transportar a nuestros estudiantes a Giant Steps (por ejemplo, Sunrise, Westway, Aurora, Hopewell, etc.). Según los documentos de orientación de la ISBE y el documento de Transporte de estudiantes alineado para el regreso a la escuela que se ha proporcionado a las empresas de transporte, estas empresas deben seguir las mismas pautas para el distanciamiento social y el PPE al transportar a los estudiantes. Las empresas de transporte también deben compartir su plan con los distritos escolares y las familias para abordar las medidas de seguridad necesarias para cumplir con los requisitos de COVID-19. De acuerdo con la orientación proporcionada, todos los estudiantes deberán usar el equipo de protección personal (PPE) apropiado / cubierta facial (en algunos casos, tanto una máscara como un protector facial) antes de entrar al autobús. Los padres también deberán completar el proceso de autocertificación con la compañía de transporte de su estudiante (si es necesario) y Giant Steps (requirido) indicando que su estudiante no tiene fiebre ni síntomas similares a COVID-19 antes de que suba a su estudiante al autobús.

Es importante tener en cuenta que la incapacidad de los estudiantes para cubrirse la cara durante el viaje en autobús a Giant Steps podría afectar su capacidad para acceder al transporte especial del distrito a través del autobús escolar y requeriría que el equipo del IEP considere adaptaciones adicionales o medias alternativas de transporte que se podrían poner en marcha.

Máscaras para Estudiantes de Educación Especial

La orientación al respecto es muy clara; Todos los estudiantes deben usar una máscara de varias capas cuando asistan dentro de un edificio escolar. Todos los estudiantes deberán usar una cubierta facial adecuada (máscara Y / O protector facial) en el transporte, en los pasillos, baños o en cualquier lugar donde no se pueda mantener la regla de los 6 pies. Cuando estén afuera, los estudiantes pueden quitarse la cubierta facial siempre que mantengan una distancia social de seis pies entre ellos.

El personal de educación especial puede hacer adaptaciones razonables para que los estudiantes tengan un descanso programado de sus máscaras durante el día escolar. Si un estudiante necesita adaptaciones adicionales más allá de los descansos de la máscara programados y se necesitará una nota del médico para que el equipo participe en conversaciones sobre adaptaciones adicionales que podrían implementarse si lo solicita su profesional médico y el equipo de Giant Steps lo confirma. Este proceso se describe en las secciones Salud / Bienestar y Planes operativos de la página web Giant Steps 20-21 Return to School. Una vez que se verifique la nota del médico, el equipo de educación especial de su estudiante trabajará directamente con usted para determinar el plan más apropiado.

El equipo de Giant Steps continuará haciendo todo lo posible para brindarles a los estudiantes instrucción directa sobre cómo usar una cubierta facial mientras estamos en aprendizaje remoto y cuando estamos en persona con los estudiantes. Considere estos dos recursos (aquí y aquí) para preparar a su estudiante para usar una máscara en el autobús y mientras está en la escuela cuando hagamos la transición a la instrucción presencial o combinada. También puede encontrar recursos adicionales para enseñar los requisitos de COVID-19 ubicados en la página web Giant Steps 20-21 Return to School. Practicando cada día en diferentes entornos Y por períodos de tiempo más largos será clave para que su estudiante se sienta lo más cómodo posible para cuando tenga que usar una cubierta facial durante todo el tiempo en el autobús de la escuela.

Student Supports

IEPs and Remote Learning Plans


We will continue to schedule these meetings as we would in any typical school year. All meetings will be held via video conferencing to reduce the number of visitors in our building.

Individual Remote Education Plan (IREP)

Students at Giant Steps will continue to have access to their services through either in person instruction or remote instruction. As our typical school day and week has been amended due to the COVID-19 restrictions, specific learning plans may need to be adjusted to fit within the learning model each family has chosen. Families can expect ongoing follow up and scheduled meetings to adjust the Individual Remote Education Plan or your child's IEP based on student needs throughout the quarantine.

Social-Emotional Supports

Social-Emotional Learning and Social-Emotional Supports will be available to students through either in person instruction or remote instruction. Teachers and social workers will continue to communicate with families about their child's social-emotional well-being and assist families as much as possible by providing supports/tools that can be used in the home. Topics could include:

  • Talking about changes to routines with a pandemic / adjusting to face coverings/PPE

  • Recognizing normal physical, emotional , and behavioral responses to crises

  • Fostering resilience and other healthy coping strategies

Physical Management

During Phase 4, physical management can be used as a brief and infrequent measure to ensure the safety of our student and staff only where there is an imminent risk of physical harm. The brevity and infrequency of use are stressed given the strong desire to maintain social distancing as much as possible. If a student is wearing a face-covering prior to requiring physical intervention, their face-covering will immediately be removed in order to monitor their respiratory status. Staff will continue to wear face-coverings and other appropriate PPE during physical intervention. There will likely be a number of situations that will require an IEP team meeting to discuss appropriate educational supports. These situations may include use of horizontal restraint, the need for physical management that exceeds 15 min/day, the need for physical management three times in a 30 day period, or the exchange of bodily fluid during crisis that is not protected by PPE.

Giant Steps Virtual "Meet and Greet" (updated 9/21/20)

Giant Steps Virtual "Meet and Greet"

Please know that on Thursday, August 20 your teacher will be sharing a virtual “Meet and Greet” slide deck in place of our regularly scheduled in-person “Meet and Greet” night. This change is happening to limit the number of visitors in our building. This slide deck will include:

  • A video from our Leadership Team outlining additional information about programming, policies, and procedures

  • A video from our Nurse sharing the latest health updates

  • A video from your teacher introducing themselves and sharing information about the classroom

  • Pictures and information about all of your child’s team members

  • Information on any of the online platforms being used this year

  • A link to ask follow-up questions to either your child’s teacher, IEP team or our Leadership Team

School Supply/Medication Drop Off (Updated 9/21/20)

There will be a time on September 24th for you to drop off any required medication for your child. School supplies for your child if you wish may also be sent on the bus on the first day of in-person instruction and staff will be prepared to help carry them in. Our school nurse will also be available on Monday and Friday during the week of Sept. 28th to receive any student medications that are needed at Giant Steps on days of in-person instruction. Please note that medication can not be sent with your child on the bus and must be dropped off in person by a parent/guardian or adult authorized by the parent/guardian.

We recognize that some items on the school supply list are difficult to find right now (like Clorox wipes) so please do not stress if you are not able to find everything. There are a few things that we would like for you to send to school with your child daily in the fall:

  • 1-3 cloth face coverings (in case one gets soiled throughout the day) - we will follow up with families who indicated they did not have access to a mask/face covering for their child

  • The needed utensils for lunch (we are trying to be mindful of reducing our plastic consumption as we will be using single-use kitchenware during Phase 4)

Academic Calendar & School Hours

Our Academic Calendar is published on our website. Below are some important details about the 20-21 school calendar:

20-21 Academic Calendar (English)

20-21 Academic Calendar (Spanish)

  • The first day of school with students is Monday, August 24th.

  • The School Hours for In Person Instruction at Giant Steps are 8:40-2:45.

  • We will continue to have early release professional development days the first Wednesday of every month. Students will be dismissed at 1:40 on early release days.

  • There is a full week off for Thanksgiving break starting November 23rd.

  • There are two weeks off for Winter break starting December 21st.

  • February 26th is a Teacher Institute Day and is a non-attendance day for students.

  • There is a full week and one day off for Spring break starting March 29th. School will resume on Tuesday, April 6th.

  • The last day of the regular school year is June 2nd if there are no emergency days used.

  • 5 emergency days have been added to the end of the regular school year.

  • For the 20-21 school year, there are TWO WEEKS and 2 days off for summer break before the start of ESY. ESY will be in session from June 21st-July 30th

  • You can anticipate having another 3 weeks of summer break after the last day of ESY prior to the start of the next school.

Health and Wellness (updated 9/25/20)

Health and Wellness

Student and Staff health and wellness will be monitored daily through a self-certification process. Click here for self-certify questionnaire. Students or staff who do not have a completed self-certification form when arriving to Giant Steps will not be allowed to enter the building until this form is complete. Children and staff are required to remain at home if they are displaying any symptoms on the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) COVID-19 symptoms list. This list is frequently changing, and families will be notified of any new symptoms that are added to this list. NOTE: we are working to create an online certification process using an app or website to facilitate this. Further information will be released as it is developed.


One or more of the following symptoms:

  • Fever (100 F or higher without fever reducing medication)

  • Cough, new or worsening

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

  • Chills or muscle aches

  • Congestion or runny nose

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Headache (new/unusual onset that is not related to migraine history)

  • Sore throat

  • New loss of taste /sense of smell

  • Nausea /Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Inflammatory symptoms: bright red rash, swollen lips, swollen hands or feet, and reddened or darkened palms or soles.

Exposure in the past 14 days:

  • Close contact with an individual diagnosed (positive test) with COVID-19 (definition updated 9/25/20)

    • Close contacts are individuals who have been within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more with a person with COVID-19 or have had direct contact with fluids from a person with COVID-19 (for example, being coughed or sneezed on, sharing eating or drinking utensils), or have had direct physical contact with a person with COVID-19 (hugged or kissed them), or have provided care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19.

    • The period of close contact begins 2 calendar days before the onset of symptoms (for a symptomatic person) or 2 calendar days before the positive sample was obtained (for an asymptomatic person). If the case was symptomatic (e.g., coughing, sneezing), persons with briefer periods of exposure may also be considered contacts. Close contacts to a confirmed case of COVID-19 are required to remain in quarantine at home for 14 calendar days starting from the last day of contact with the confirmed case.

Procedures if a student/staff member is exhibiting symptoms of Coronavirus-Like Illness(CLI)

  • A student will immediately report to the designated COVID-19 assessment room for evaluation by the Giant Steps Nurse.

  • Staff will be immediately be removed from programming and sent home for doctor evaluation.

  • Parents will be contacted to pick up their child within an one hour of notification of CLI symptoms present at school.

  • If there is an immediate serious concern regarding the individual’s health, 911 will be called.

  • A staff member or parent will be recommended to contact their healthcare provider to see if testing is needed. Staff members are required to report test results to the school. Parents will be recommended to report test results to the school.

  • All areas used by a person that is sick will be closed until appropriate clean and disinfection has been performed.

  • All students who had contact with a student or staff member (15 minutes or longer within 6 feet of an individual with or without a mask) who is suspected of having COVID-19 or tests positive for COVID-19 will also be sent home to monitor for symptoms for 14 days.

  • Giant Steps will report any case of confirmed COVID-19 to local health departments, and follow their guidance on quarantine recommendations. Staff and school families can anticipate follow-up directly from the local health department.

  • The Giant Steps Nurse will follow-up daily with student families who are quarantined to monitor for the development symptoms of CLI and recommend primary care provider evaluation if CLI symptoms develop.

Guidelines for Returning to School Following Exposure or Symptoms

Student or staff member that has CLI symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19 can return to school if they meet ALL of the following criteria:

  • It has been 10 calendar days since symptoms began and symptoms have improved or received two negative COVID-19 tests in a row taken 24 hours apart on or after 5th day of isolation.

  • No fever (without fever reducing medicine) or other symptoms for at least 3 calendar days

A student or staff member that tests positive for COVID-19, but does not have any of the symptoms listed above, can return to school if they meet ALL of the following criteria:

  • It has been 10 calendar days since the positive test result or received two negative COVID-19 tests in a row taken 24 hours apart on or after 5th day of isolation.

  • Has continued to have no symptoms

Staff who are showing CLI symptoms will be required to obtain a COVID-19 test, and report the results to Giant Steps.

A student that is showing symptoms but refuses a COVID-19 test may return to school if they meet ALL of the following criteria:

  • It has been 10 calendar days since symptoms began, and there has been improvement of symptoms

  • No fever (without fever reducing medicine) or other symptoms for at least 3 calendar days

A student/staff member that has been exposed (within six feet for more than 15 minutes) to another person (family, friend, other student) that has tested positive with COVID-19 must follow the criteria below:

  • Quarantine for 14 calendar days after the last exposure or receive two negative COVID-19 tests in a row taken 24 hours apart on or after 5th day of isolation.

  • Monitor and remain free of COVID-19 symptoms

A student or staff member exhibiting symptoms (that do not have a confirmed exposure to the virus) may return to school with negative test results or a doctor’s note stating that a medical evaluation determined that their symptoms were due to another cause (i.e. influenza or strep throat). The student must still abide by all health regulations for the diagnosed cause of the symptoms. Please refer to the student handbook for further information on return to school after diagnosis of other infectious diseases than COVID-19.

A physician’s note will be required for a student or staff member to return to school after any confirmed case.

A student or staff member who is living with a family member who tested positive can return to school if they meet ALL of the following criteria:

  • Quarantine for 14 calendar days after the date the family member with COVID-19 ends home isolation. Any time a new household member gets sick with COVID-19 and the student or staff member had close contact, the quarantine will need to be restarted.

  • No fever (without fever reducing medicine) or other symptoms for at least 3 calendar days

  • If exhibiting symptoms or tests positive, then a student or staff member must follow those guidelines to return to school.

June 23rd, 2020 ISBE Part Three Guidance

Operational Plans

Maintaining Social Distancing

Giant Steps is taking all necessary actions to ensure all spaces support health and safety. These actions include signage and floor markings to remind staff and students of social-distancing practices. There may be some changes to foot-traffic flow through buildings and furniture placement in the classrooms. Students at Giant Steps and staff who work with them are expected to practice social distancing as much as possible. Travel to different classrooms/learning spaces will be minimized as much as possible and classroom seating will be configured with 6 feet of social distancing as much as possible.

  • Where possible, desks will face the same direction and/or students will sit on only one side of tables, spaced apart, in assigned seats.

  • Students will not share school supplies; students will use their own school supplies and keep belongings separate or in their backpacks during the day.

  • Students are encouraged to bring a refillable water bottle from home to school. Bottles may be refilled throughout the day using a sink. School drinking fountains will be shut off.

  • Hand sanitizer will be readily available in each classroom and students will be given time to thoroughly wash hands with soap and water several times throughout the day.

  • All classrooms will have disinfectant spray or wipe sanitizer available for staff to disinfect high touch areas as needed throughout the day.


The CDC recommends everyone wash their hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. Giant Steps will be incorporating handwashing breaks into the school day and reinforcing handwashing during key times throughout the school day. If your child has sensitivities to hand sanitizer or hand soaps, please communicate this with your child’s teacher so they can provide your child other opportunities to clean their hands. Hand-Sanitizing Station/dispensers will be provided in each classroom and readily available throughout all buildings.


Face-coverings are an additional step to help slow the spread of COVID-19 when combined with everyday preventive actions and social distancing. Personal protective equipment (PPE) required for use by employees will be provided by Giant Steps. Giant Steps will require students attending in-person learning to wear a face-covering at school. Giant Steps will have a limited amount of extra face-coverings for students and staff to use in case of an emergency.

    • Students who are unable to wear a face-covering for the entire program day (with the exception of eating/drinking) will have to have their primary care physician (PCP) fill out a form indicating if there is a medical contraindication to wear a face-covering. The form will also allow the PCP to indicate if the student needs additional accommodations in place to access programming because they unable to wear a face covering.

CDC Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19

Reducing Sharing

All of our instructional spaces will be free from materials that cannot be wiped down/disinfected and free from as much clutter as possible. Teachers and therapists will be mindful to bring individual supplies for your child to instructional periods to reduce sharing. Many shared items are temporarily being stored away from student access (e.g., roller slides, ball baths, classroom beanbag chairs) during Phase 4. Disinfecting protocols are being put in place for any shared items that remain in the building to ensure proper disinfection happens between student use (e.g., squeeze machine, platform swings, crash pads). In many cases, Giant Steps has ordered additional materials so what were previously shared items are now student specific (e.g., body socks, weighted blankets).


Students will be able to eat lunch at school. The maximum number of students in an area eating lunch should be 5 students. Students will be placed at least 6 feet away from one another during lunch. Handwashing will be required both before and after eating lunch. Students will continue to have access to a microwave, refrigerator and freezer at school. During Phase 4, we are moving to one time use kitchen products (plates, silverware, etc.). Please help us by sending in reusable silverware from home and we will send it back with your child to be washed in the evening. Please also consider sending in either a reusable water bottle or disposable drink containers.

Free and Reduced Lunch

This will continue to be offered to students who qualify for Free and Reduced lunch assistance through their home school district on the days that they are present for in-person instruction. If you would like more information on receiving Free and Reduced lunch if you are fully remote or on the days you are remote, please reach to your social worker or home school district.

Cleaning and Sanitizing

Enhanced Cleaning Daily Cleaning (days with student attendance)

  • Cleaning and disinfecting student desks/chairs daily.

  • Main touch points will be cleaned and disinfected (switches, handles, doors) throughout the day.

  • Bathroom touch points will be cleaned and disinfected on scheduled intervals throughout the school day.

  • Additional disinfecting throughout the school day to the following:

    • Push bars

    • Door handles

    • Soap/Sanitizer dispensers

    • Partition doors (inside and outside of doors)

    • Toilet seats

    • Flush handles- urinals & toilets

    • Hand dryer push buttons

    • All faucet handles in restrooms

    • All sink handles in classrooms, lounges, etc

    • Handrails

    • Main Office counter tops

  • Students sanitize &/or wash hands throughout the school day.

  • Disinfect back of chairs.

  • Attempt to spend less time on carpet/floor to help eliminate germs (hard surface to disinfect).

  • Student AAC devices will be disinfected upon arrival at school, throughout the day and before leaving the building.

Deep Cleaning Process: After school, Wednesday remote day, weekend

  • Confirm proper dwell time is used for disinfectant on all areas discussed above

  • Deeper clean/disinfect to chairs, desks and tables

  • Deeper clean to all dispensers, partition walls, restroom doors, office doors, etc

  • All touch points in the building will be cleaned and disinfected.

  • Deep cleaning to restrooms throughout the facility

  • Additional deep cleaning and disinfecting will be done in classrooms.

  • Conduct a thorough cleaning of all surfaces discussed to remove any and all disinfectant residue off all surfaces.


All students and staff must wear face-coverings while on transportation to Giant Steps. Social distancing will be maintained where possible while on transportation and students will have assigned seats. Students must undergo symptom and temperature self-certification for Giant Steps PRIOR to loading the bus from home. (Note: some districts may require a second self-certification process to access district transportation). Upon arrival at Giant Steps, students will undergo an additional temperature check conducted by Giant Steps staff prior to getting off of the bus and allowed to enter the building.

Outdoor Instruction & Playgrounds

Classroom teachers/staff will be able to take students outside for instruction and mask breaks with weather permitting. According to ISBE guidance mask breaks are allowed outside as along as 6 feet of social distancing is maintained at all times. Please note that playground equipment will not be accessible by students at this time. When taking students outdoors, our staff are extremely mindful of the risk of elopement and plan accordingly with their positioning and staffing.

Rec Center

For more information about the Giant Steps Rec Center Program please contact Karoline Kordalewski, Rec Center Manager, at

Visitors to the Buildings

In an effort to protect the health and safety of our community, only essential visitors will be allowed on school campus/in the building to minimize the number of people on-site. No outside guests will be allowed to visit the classroom. All efforts will be made to keep necessary visitors to a minimum, including the use of virtual or telephone meetings and tours with families and guests. Parents meeting on-site with school staff must follow social-distancing guidelines and wear face-covering when appropriate. All regularly scheduled meetings (e.g., IEPs, Domains, Re-evaluations, Intakes) will occur using video or phone.

Guidelines For Closure of Schools (Based on IDPH Guidelines)

For any positive COVID-19 case at a school at Giant Steps, the school leadership team will work with local officials from the Department of Health and Center for Disease Control in determining a course of action on a case-by-case basis.

Important Definitions: This information was collected from the Illinois State Board of Education and Illinois Department of Public Health:

Quarantine - This is used to separate people who are in close contact of someone with a contagious disease, such as COVID-19, from others for a period of time (14 calendar days for COVID-19) to see if they become sick.

Isolation - The act of remaining at home or a place where a person was told to isolate and avoid contact with other people until their isolation period is over. Isolation is recommended for those who are sick with symptoms of COVID-19 and have tested positive or are waiting on results of a test.

Close Contact - This is defined as being within 6 feet of someone who tested positive for COVID-19 for 15 minutes. 15 minutes of close contact is cumulative minutes throughout the day.


Methods of Communication

The primary method of mass communication of information to our families will be through Giant Steps email with the capability of using Infinite Campus system to broadcast phone and SMS text messages to our families. Where appropriate, messages will be sent in both English and Spanish. Parents that need to change contact information after they have completed registration should contact Mandie Taylor, Organizational Program Manager, at

Parents, students, and community members can also access much information on our website, which is smartphone enabled. Our website will be updated often as more details are developed for our return to school and is the best avenue for the most current information.

We also share general information about our program and events on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Staff Support and Human Resources


Professional Development (in-person)

  • Early Release Days, weekly building staff meetings, weekly classroom team meetings in person

  • Global Compliance Network trainings - including Covid related topics

  • Professional Crisis Management trainings in person

  • Trauma-Informed

  • Annual First Aid/Health trainings

  • PD offerings in person and remote

  • In person Onboard training for new staff in person


Professional Development (blended)

  • Staff In-service Week in person Aug 17-21

  • Early Release Days, weekly building staff meetings, weekly classroom team meetings (in person and remote)

  • Global Compliance Network trainings - including Covid related topics

  • Professional Crisis Management trainings (remote)

  • Trauma-Informed (remote)

  • Annual First Aid/Health trainings (in person and remote)

  • Remote PD offerings

  • Remote Onboard training for New Staff


Professional Development (remote)

  • Remote Early Release Days, weekly building staff meetings, weekly classroom team meetings

  • Global Compliance Network trainings - including Covid related topics

  • Professional Crisis Management trainings (remote)

  • Remote PD offerings

  • No approval for In person Workshops

  • Remote Onboard training for New Staff

Additional Information

Social-Emotional Supports

Giant Steps is committed to supporting the social-emotional well being of our employees. Staff will receive guidance on how to reestablish safe and secure classroom environments while monitoring their own social-emotional well-being. Giant Steps will create opportunities for staff to engage in self-care and periodically reassess staff wellness to determine the efficacy of existing and the need for additional supports. Staff also have access to an Employee Assistance Program for additional support.