Will school boards defy Gov. Pritzker’s mask mandate?

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School student Makenzie Wells holds up her paper during Angela Harshbarger’s first grade class on the first day of in-person learning in District 205 on Monday, Feb 1, 2021.

GALESBURG — As school districts grapple with mask decisions for the upcoming school year, State Rep. Dan Swanson, R-Alpha, said school districts could lose state funding and certification if they don’t follow the governor’s mask mandate. 

In a Facebook post, Swanson said schools that don’t adhere to the mandate could lose their Evidence-Based Funding or no longer be recognized by the State Board of Education, which would affect membership in the Illinois High School Association and Illinois Elementary School Association. 

“Local schools can ill-afford to go into probation or lose accreditation by not following the mandate,” Swanson told The Register-Mail. 

Swanson said he seeks to educate parents and schools on the potential repercussions and encourages those with concerns to contact the governor’s office. 

“I don’t oppose the mask mandate, I oppose the governor not including legislators in making the decision,” Swanson said. “The legislative branch should have been called into Springfield instead of the governor going alone on this for the last 18 months.”

Galesburg District 205 was considering masks for unvaccinated teachers and students or a mask optional policy prior to the mandate, but will follow the executive order or subsequent guidelines for classes beginning Sept. 2.

Other districts and school boards in the area are still weighing their options, as opposition is voiced for the mandate. 

Jeff Johnson, president of the Knoxville District 202 board of education, said the board was going to adopt a masks recommended policy last week when, three hours before the board meeting, the governor issued the mandate. 

More:‘Lost our trust’: Midwest Central superintendent blasts Pritzker mask mandate

Now the board will decide Wednesday night whether the district will follow the mandate.

Johnson said the board has been receiving a lot of communication from parents in the district, with 90 percent of those not wanting students and staff to have to wear masks. 

But, Johnson noted, those who want masks in schools have been vocal as well. 

“There’s a lot of concern there, too,” Johnson said. “I think everyone is split. Nobody wants to wear masks. But we also understand the safety involved. There are kids under 12 who can’t get the vaccine. You have to try and protect them somehow.”

More:In compromise, Farmington schools will require masks – but not due to Pritzker’s mandate

Johnson said he is aware of the possible consequences, such as losing state funding, liability insurance and certification, which has the potential to affect sports or awarding diplomas.

“Is that a risk you want to take for the sake of not wearing a mask?” Johnson said. 

At Abingdon-Avon District 276, board members had yet to decide a mask policy when the governor issued the mandate.

“Now they have to make a decision whether to follow the mandate or disregard the mandate,” said Superintendent Mike Curry. “My recommendation is to stay within the bounds of the law, but the board has the authority to do what it wishes.”

The Abingdon-Avon District 276 board was expected to make that decision Tuesday evening. 

More:Galesburg schools will require masking; board hears hour of opposition

via Galesburg Register Mail

August 11, 2021 at 04:32PM

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