Dear Students, Families and Staff of the Arcola School District,
I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer.
Waiting for Guidance
School district staff members have been waiting all summer to get some sort of guidance from the State of Illinois on the requirements and mandates for the 2021-2022 school year.
Although it has been very quiet so far this summer, yesterday was a flurry of activity. First, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its’ updated guidance for schools. Those recommendations can be found here:
A few hours later, we received a Press Release from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) indicating that they had fully adopted the guidelines that were approved by CDC. There were several recommendations but two of the biggest ones included:
- Masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated. Consistent and correct mask use by people who are not fully vaccinated is especially important indoors and in crowded settings, when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
- Schools should maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, combined with indoor mask wearing by people who are not fully vaccinated, to reduce transmission risk. When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, such as when schools cannot fully re-open while maintaining these distances, it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as indoor masking.
My first reaction to any newly released guidance is always to “wait and see” how the guidance will be interpreted and eventually clarified.
Some people immediately interpreted this guidance as “masks will be required for all non-vaccinated individuals.” On the other hand, other people interpreted the guidance as “wearing masks by non-vaccinated individuals will be a local decision because they used the word should and not must.”
State Board of Education Interpretation
This afternoon, all school district superintendents received a communication from the State Superintendent of Education from ISBE stating that she was glad that IDPH had clarified guidance that schools will:
- Require masks only for individuals who are not fully vaccinated.
- Recommend at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, but not if this would be a barrier to in-person learning.
But again, this could just be her individual interpretation of what she read from IDPH and CDC.
Where Do We Stand
Here are a few things that we do know at this point:
1. It will still be a few weeks before know exactly what the final requirements/interpretations will be.
2. It looks as though individuals that are fully vaccinated will for sure NOT be required to wear a mask next school year. If you are interested in getting vaccinated, you can sign up through the Douglas County Health Department website: http://dchealthdept.org/. We are also talking with them about scheduling a vaccination clinic at school soon.
3. Once the guidelines are clear, the school board will have a special meeting to consider final approval of the reopening plan.
Tom Mulligan, Superintendent