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Masks and Isolation Changes

Good Evening Panther Nation.  As a result of the court action on Friday, and on the advice of our school district attorneys, starting tomorrow, Monday February 7th we can follow our original Return to Learn Plan that was adopted in July of 2021 by the North Mac Board of Education.  In that plan, masking is optional for students and staff who are not currently under an isolation order or an exposure situation, and as long as the local metrics with the COVID positivity rate are under a certain threshold.  The original threshold set back in July of 2021 was 8%; however, at the most recent Board of Education meeting the North Mac CUSD amended that threshold to 15%.  That said, given the court ruling and our local return to learning plan, masks for the week of February 7th will be optional.  While masks are at this time optional because of the court ruling and because the COVID positivity rate is currently under 15% for the cities of Girard and Virden, we still highly encourage the continued use of masks.  I want to remind everyone that like every school district across the country, we have medically fragile students and staff in our district.  Out of respect for those individuals we ask that you please consider continuing to wear a mask.

In addition, procedural changes will also be taking place in regard to close contacts.  While at this time, as a result of the TRO, we will no longer be requiring the isolation of close contacts per the IDPH guidance, we will be passing along that information to the local health department and they may or may not follow through with isolation or quarantine orders.  In addition, if your child becomes a close contact to a positive person we ask that you voluntarily isolate your child per the IDPH guidelines.  If we find out your child is a close contact while at school, we will notify you so that you can make the decision you see fit for your child.   

Please be aware that this current situation remains static.  Friday’s court ruling is being appealed and it is quite possible in the coming days or weeks the rules governing masks and isolation will change once again.  In addition, potential new Executive Orders from the Governor, and/or new mandates from the ISBE or the IDPH may impact or change things in the coming days or weeks.  Everyone should be ready for more changes in the future and understand that changes could come at a moment’s notice.  

Please note:  Masking while on school busses is still required for all students and staff riding these busses.  This is a rule from the Federal Government and the recent court ruling has no bearing on masks on busses.  In these very confined spaces it is simply unsafe to lift the mask mandate and unless you hear otherwise, the mask mandate is still in place while on busses.  This is to protect our drivers and our students who are in these very confined spaces for an extended period of time.  We appreciate your cooperation and understanding in this area. 

Finally, I do apologize for the lateness of this message regarding this matter.  The ruling that was released on Friday is full of ambiguities and far from clear.  Today I met with attorneys from several law firms, including our own, as well as representatives from several state agencies to make sure our actions for tomorrow and moving forward are lawful and in the best possible interest of our students and staff in regard to keeping everyone as safe as possible.  In certain areas our hands are tied in that respect. However, we certainly will continue to do all we possibly can within the confines of the laws, the mandates, and any court rulings that come our way to keep everyone as safe as possible.