A judicial decision last week has prompted local schools to take a look at their own mask policies.
In a letter addressed to Nashville Community High School parents and staff, Superintendent Brad Turner announced that the school will be implementing changes to its COVID-19 mitigations. Beginning Tuesday, the high school will step back from its current mask requirements and adopt a more advisory role.
“We will ‘strongly recommend’ and encourage masks be worn, as a way to help protect those students and staff who may be at increased risk or have family members at home at increased risk,” Turner said. “However, masks will not be required to be worn in the building.”
In a letter to parents, Nashville District 49 Superintendent Mike Brink said the primary and middle school will also lift its mask mandate for students and staff members present at the school Rather the decision to wear or not to wear “will be made by each individual parent on behalf of their student.”
Students from both schools who are transported by bus will still be required to wear masks, per CDC guidelines.
On Friday, a judge in Sangamon County issued a temporary restraining order against the COVID-19 mitigations, including those involved in quarantine and exclusion and staff testing requirements.
Turner explained that NCHS will continue to follow Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines for those who test positive for COVID-19.
“Because of the ambiguity of the ruling, we believe all individuals still must follow isolation guidance, meaning an individual may return to school on day 6 (only if symptoms are improving), but must remain masked for days 6-10,” Turner said. “Individuals who elect not to wear a mask during this time may elect to return on day 11. Students who return on day 6 must also socially distance whenever possible.”
Should an.outbreak occur at NCHS, Turner assured that the school will return to require masking as a mitigation effort to control the spread so that the school can continue in-person learning. Remote learning has only been available for students who are isolated due to a positive COVID-19 test or those who have doctors orders.
Both superintendents stressed that the present situation remains up in the air and additional changes may be addressed as more information becomes available.
“Please understand that there will be more questions that arise in the coming days,” Turner said. “We will address those as they come and communicate any additional information that needs to be shared.
Brink said District 49 will wait to see how the current ligation unfolds. An appeal has been filed, and there is an expected decision on Feb. 17.
“I will keep everyone updated on that process when a decision is made by the appellate court,” he said.
Turner spoke about the toll that COVID mitigations have caused and he credited the NCHS community for remaining steadfast during these unprecedented times.
“This is a very emotional issue for everyone,” he said. “Some students and staff will choose to continue wearing their mask, while others will not. Regardless of our individual beliefs on this issue, we all need to support one another and be respectful of our differences. Despite the never ending challenges thrown at them, our students and staff have done remarkable things over the last two years and have exemplified our ‘Commitment to Excellence!!'”