St. Charles School District 303 is looking at lifting additional COVID-19 mitigation measures next month after spring break.
“We are certainly looking forward to removing as many of the mitigation strategies as possible,” Superintendent Jason Pearson told school board members at the board meeting March 14. “We kind of set spring break as a target date.”
Spring break starts March 28. Classes resume April 4. Pearson said the district has been holding off on lifting restrictions “just to see if there are any updates or change in the Illinois State Board of Education or Illinois Department of Public Health guidance.”
“The first thing that we wanted to do was to make sure that as we remove the masks that we were still able to provide a safe environment,” Pearson said.
The school board decided to make masks optional after a downstate judge’s ruling Feb. 4 to temporarily restrain the district from enforcing Gov. JB Pritzker’s COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates. The St. Charles and Geneva school districts were among more than 140 school districts around the state named in a lawsuit designed to prevent the school districts from being able to require masks and vaccine mandates.
In filing the lawsuit, parents argued there was no due process in Illinois’ statewide mask order. The Illinois State Supreme Court declined to hear Pritzker’s appeal of the lawsuit.
At the same time, it vacated the restraining order issued by the lower court, meaning a statewide mask requirement in schools could be instituted in the future. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Feb. 25 issued new guidelines on universal mask wearing, including in schools. The CDC is now recommending universal masking only in communities where there is high community COVID-19 levels.
According to the Kane County Health Department’s website, Kane County’s COVID-19 transmission level is low. After the CDC’s change in guidance, Pritzker lifted the state’s mask mandate, including in schools.
Pearson said there is a difference between “what we would call extracurricular or public activities in our buildings, where people have choice about whether or not to attend, and what happens in our classrooms in the school day when students are present.”
“Because we still have students who are masking, we still have students who are vulnerable,” he said. “They have conditions we’re trying to protect. And so that’s a little bit of a different setting for a basketball game or a concert or something where people are able to make decisions about whether or not to attend based on their level of comfort.”
Earlier in the meeting, parent Elisa Ignash called for the board to remove all COVID-19 mitigation strategies “immediately.”
She told board members that mitigation measures differ from school to school in the district.
“We will never effectively pick up all current mitigation strategies one by one because there’s no consistency to start with,” Ignash told board members.