Dear District 102 Parents and Guardians,
Since the recent order issued by the circuit court judge in Sangamon County regarding the Governor's mask mandate, District 102 has been reviewing all available options that may exist. Over the past week, we have tried to uphold the governor’s executive order while also allowing flexibility to keep students in the classroom who may have come to school unmasked. We did this knowing that things could change at any moment and with the hope that further guidance would have been provided in recent days.
At this time, however, a stay order has not been issued and we are now awaiting the appellate court ruling, which is due by the end of next week. Our delay in communicating a specific position has been to avoid moving back and forth between “mask optional versus mask mandated” based on the outcomes of an appellate court ruling. In addition, we have learned that the Governor is likely to modify the mandate after the ruling. He has already outlined his changes to non-school-related indoor mask mandates for the end of this month.
This new information and anticipated changes are allowing us to plan for a transition to a “MASK RECOMMENDED/MASK OPTIONAL” environment beginning on WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 16. This will give families time to prepare their children, and for our staff to prepare, for moving in this direction. Once the appellate court issues a ruling, we will carefully review the decision and evaluate our options going forward. In addition, our community and school-based metrics may also require us to revisit the need for a mask requirement.
We recognize that there are a variety of opinions and emotions on this topic. Our combined community rates have been low and are currently under 3%, and our internal positivity rates have dropped significantly from a month ago. Our staff vaccination rate is over 97% and there are now vaccines available for children ages 5 and up and treatments for those who become infected with COVID-19. We will maintain our layered mitigation strategies such as optional SHIELD and BinaxNOW testing, air purifiers in the classrooms and many of the larger rooms, and increased outside air circulation in our buildings.
Please understand that we have students and staff who are immunocompromised. It is with this in mind that we strongly recommend, but do not mandate, that all students and staff continue to wear masks while inside the school for the time being. However, please note that masks must still be worn on buses at all times per Federal mandate. Additionally, when traveling to other schools for extracurricular activities we will expect our athletes, employees and, respectfully request our parents, to follow our host’s COVID-19 mitigations.
Teachers will be having conversations with students to discuss the need to be respectful, empathetic, and kind regardless of whether students or teachers choose to wear a mask. We want to assure children that school is a safe place whether people have a mask on or not. We know that our youngest students will need appropriate reassurances that they are following school rules whether they are wearing a mask or not. We encourage you to have these conversations with your children as well. The decision to wear or not wear a mask will be a parental choice and staff will not be enforcing mask-wearing.
During this transition and through the rest of the school year, we will ensure our schools remain safe places for our children to learn and our teachers and staff to teach and work with our students. We recognize that this has been a long couple of years. We are committed to the education of your children in a safe and healthy learning environment. Thank you for your support in helping us make this transition a positive experience for our students and our staff.
District 102 Board President
Kyle A. Schumacher,
District 102 Superintendent