New mask mandate decision

Marissa Levandowski, Features Editor

On Friday, Feb. 4, a Judge in downstate Illinois declared a temporary restraining order, on the mask mandate in Illinois schools. Approximately 150 schools out of 850 Illinois schools are involved in the lawsuit. Masks are still required to be worn on school buses.

After the ruling, Governor J.B. Prizter said, “The grave consequence of this misguided decision is that schools in these districts no longer have sufficient tools to keep students and staff safe while COVID-19 continues to threaten our communities — and this may force schools to go remote.”

Schools across Illinois are all responding to the matter differently, at least one school canceled for Monday, Feb. 7,
while other schools continued to recommend masks to their students. Local schools such as Plainfeild, Minooka, and Troy have all gone mask optional.

Some schools involved in the suit no longer have to wear masks for the time being, as of now Joliet West High School is not involved in the lawsuit, and students must still wear their masks. So far students have mostly stayed compliant with the rule, Dr. Gibson says she hopes students will continue to comply with the rules so students can focus on learning.

As of Feb. 14, there is now a group of parents trying to join the lawsuit. They would be suing on the behalf of Joliet Township, and district 86 combined. They have not officially joined the suit but they are currently in the process of doing so.

Dr. Karla Guseman, superintendent, says, “All students that I spoke with were polite and complied immediately. I spoke with Dr. Gibson and she said she experienced the same thing today. If a student arrives to  school without a mask, we continue to provide masks.” Governor Pritzker filed an emergency appeal of the ruling. He asked that the state Attorney General’s office immediately appeal the decision barring schools from enforcing mask mandates, school exclusion protocols and COVID-19 testing requirements.

In a recent press conference, Pritzker announced that he will lift the statewide mask mandate on Feb. 28 due to a sharp decrease in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

Until the appeal is heard and decided, Pritzker along with Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Illinois School Board Education Association have asked that schools continue to require masking mandates.