As of Feb. 7, masks are optional at Illinois schools, including the Upper and Freshman Campuses.
An email from District 156 Superintendent Ryan McTague states, “On Friday, a court ruling in Springfield resulted in a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining the governor from enforcing his executive orders that require masks for all students, teachers, staff and visitors and quarantine for close contacts, as well as requiring mandatory vaccinations or COVID-19 testing for school employees.”
The ruling is the result of Sangamon County Judge Raylene Grischow’s decision to temporarily block Governor JB Pritzker’s school mask mandate. For now, Illinois schools cannot legally require students to wear a mask.
This all began in October 2021 shortly after Pritzker issued the mask mandate for schools. Though District 156 was not named in the lawsuit, over 150 Illinois school districts were involved, including McHenry’s elementary and middle school district.
Bond County attorney Tom DeVore filed the lawsuits for the districts that oppose masks, vaccines, and quarantining after a positive test. “What we’re asking is, if children are going to be required to wear masks…before it goes on, they are given the right to due process,” he told the Chicago Tribune.
Judge Grishcow ruled Pritzker’s COVID-19 protocols for schools to be “null and void” in her 29-page ruling on Feb. 5.
“Statutory rights have attempted to be bypassed through the issuance of executive orders and emergency rules,” she stated in the ruling. “This type of evil is exactly what the law was intended to constrain.”
Pritkzer and his administration spoke out against the ruling, and plan on appealing the judge’s decision as soon as possible.
“The grave consequence of this misguided decision is that schools in these districts no longer have sufficient tools to keep students and staff safe while COVID-19 continues to threaten our communities,” said Pritzker in a statement, “and this may force schools to go remote.”
While District 156 was not directly involved in the lawsuit, the Upper and Freshman campuses will be affected.
According to an email sent out by McTague, unvaccinated staff will also not be required to test weekly, but SHIELD testing will remain available to both students and staff.
Unvaccinated students who are a close contact will not be required to quarantine. However, as it is federal law, masks are still required on buses.
As of Feb. 5, the mask mandate block is temporary and Prtizker plans to appeal Grishchow’s decision. MCHS mentioned in an email that they will keep parents and staff updated as the situation evolves.