Peoria-area school districts are reviewing mask policies enforcement after ruling blocks state mandate
School districts around the Peoria area are interpreting a Sangamon County judge's Fridayissuing of a temporary restraining order against masking mandates and other COVID-19 mitigation measures in schools.
"I don't think certainty would be a word that I would use right now, and I know it's incredibly frustrating and I know it's incredibly confusing," Peoria County Regional Superintendent of Schools Beth Crider said Monday. "So it's going to take time, and patience, and grace, because we're all trying to figure this out as it unfolds."
Crider said several school districts have board meetings scheduled this week and it's possible many may switch from a mask requirement to merely a recommendation.
While Peoria Public Schools District 150 kept its mask requirement in place, many area school boards voted during emergency meetings Sunday evening to drop masking mandates starting Monday.
Limestone District 310 was one of the districts named in the lawsuit out of Springfield. Superintendent Allan Gresham said Sunday that the district will comply with the temporary restraining order, making masking optional in the district.
East Peoria District 86, South Pekin District 137, and Deer Creek-Mackinaw District 701 are among those dropping the mandates. Those districts say students and staff may still wear masks if they wish, but won't be required to do so.
Masks are still required on buses in those districts, per federal law.
PPS superintendent Dr. Sharon Kherat sent out a note Saturday, telling parents and staff that masks will continue to be required in the district. The school board's return-to-school plan approved in July mandated face coverings for the 2021-22 school year.
A district spokesperson said because the district wasn't included in the lawsuit, all previous procedures remain in place.
Other districts, such as Farmington 265, are opting to maintain the status quo for the moment. Superintendent Dr. Zac Chatterton said while the ruling may be extrapolated to apply to districts not included in the Sangamon County lawsuit, he is hesitant to make a hasty decision.
Crider said their understanding is the temporary restraining order only applies to districts that were named in the lawsuit.
"The mandate still exists for the districts that were not a part, so we're still business as usual today and enforcing the way that we always have with regular school discipline if you're not in compliance with anything that we require as our school rules," she said. "So in Peoria Public Schools, they are still a part of universal masking so if someone shows up without a mask, they'll be offered one."
Crider said Peoria City/County Health Department administrator Monica Hendrickson participated in Monday's weekly meeting of superintendents and continued to advocate for masks.
"She is still (saying) the science points to universal masking being the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to make sure we can stay in school, which is where we want our students," said Crider. "So that is what we will continue to try to encourage. But the metrics are improving, so things might start to shift, regardless of this lawsuit."
The governor's office and attorney general's office are asking the 4th District Appellate Court to vacate the TRO immediately. That move could come as soon as Monday.