‘Recommended but not required’: Masks optional in Plano School District 88

Masks will be optional for students and staff inside of Plano School District 88 schools as the new school year begins later this month.

The PSD 88 Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the directive during a special meeting Aug. 2 at Plano High School. A decision was originally expected at the July 19 meeting of the board, however Superintendent Tony Baker advised that the decision be delayed in order to give administrators more time to make a more detailed recommendation to the board.

“Although our school district is looking forward to returning to ‘normal’ in many ways, we are also well aware of the fact that although the COVID pandemic is waning, it is not yet completely behind us,” information provided by administrators to the board reads.

As approved by the board, the “Return to Learn” resolution calls for all students be provided in-person instruction five days per week. Aug. 18 will mark the first full day of school for kindergarten through 12th graders for the new school year.

“As long as supported by local health data,” masks will be recommended for unvaccinated individuals, but there will not be a universal mask mandate for students and staff, the resolution states.

Students and staff will also not be required to disclose their vaccination status to school district officials, but may wish to voluntarily disclose their vaccination status to avoid a “mandatory quarantine” for close contact with a COVID-positive individual.

Masks will also be required to be worn by all students and staff while on district transportation such as school buses to and from school and extracurricular events, driver’s education vehicles, and district-owned vans or cars, according to the resolution.

As students under the age of 12 are not eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, students in kindergarten through sixth grade “will remain in cohorts” as much as possible. Students in K-6 cohorts may be required to temporarily don a mask in the case of a COVID-positive individual within their cohort.

Remote learning will only be offered to students under a quarantine order by the local public health department or the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“Remote learning methods will be determined by the individual teacher(s),” the resolution states.

In crafting the resolution, district administrators studied guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and consulted with neighboring school districts, the district’s Transition Team, legal counsel, insurance providers, and the Kendall County Health Department.

“As always, based on local COVID data and/or recommendations from local health officials, the current situation could potentially continue to evolve and change in the days and weeks ahead,” the resolution states.

An in-depth look at the resolution shows that the district will continue to take steps to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 including: maintaining social distancing of at least three feet whenever possible, encouraging parents and guardians to self-check their children for COVID symptoms prior to the start of the school day and to keep them home if they show symptoms, mandatory quarantines for COVID-positive students and staff, mandatory quarantines for unvaccinated individuals in close contact with a COVID-positive person or who show symptoms of COVID-19, encouraging and practicing proper hand and respiratory hygiene, ensuring proper ventilation in schools and acknowledging that the CDC recommends that age-eligible students receive the COVID-19 vaccination.

If local health data shows a need for increased mitigations, such as mask mandates, increased social distancing, changes in lunch service, or remote learning, “the Board of Education and Administration will make necessary changes to ensure the health and safety of all students and staff,” the resolution reads.