MT. VERNON — While some southern Illinois schools are defying a mask mandate from Governor JB Pritzker, Mt. Vernon Township High School has amended their return to learn plan to follow the executive order.
The MVTHS Board approved the district’s return to learn plan in July, which had students in-person, unmasked 5 days a week. Superintendent Melanie Andrews says the only change in the plan was reflective of the mask mandate handed down by the Governor on August 4th. Andrews sought guidance from legal council, insurance companies, and the health department. She says after those conversations, she saw no choice but to follow in line for fear of students graduating with non-recognized diploma’s, missing out on IHSA sports, losing scholarships as well as federal and state funding.
The board mentioned that as soon as the state mandate was over, they would call an immediate meeting and assess the COVID case numbers as well as other factors before moving forward with overturning the mask mandate. One board member, Vice President Terry Knowles said, “The Governor and ISBE are bullies. They don’t work with school districts. They demand and I don’t like that.”
Salem Community High School also recently followed in step with amending their return to learn plan to feature a mask requirement. It was meant with an outpouring of vocal disapproval from parents in attendance at their meeting. Superintendent Brad Detering said defying the mandate is not off the table. He said its possible to have it voted for removal if positive cases and close contact numbers in the district decrease. That would be a decision Detering says would be made after collecting data and based off of “internal conditions.”
Many area school board’s have voted to defy the order and went with a ‘mask optional’ policy instead. A lot of these schools have begun receiving letters from the ISBE warning it was starting the process to place them on probation for not enforcing masking, distance, and other requirements as required by the Governor’s mandate.
A district will have 60 days to submit a compliance plan after first meeting with ISBE to review their school board’s action on the mandate.