The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Illini West Reverses Vote On Optional Mask Wearing

Joy Swearingen, Quill Correspondent

Face coverings are required at Illini West High School starting Wednesday, Sept. 1.

At a special meeting Monday, Aug. 30, the board adopted an amended Return to School Plan that calls for universal masking and directs the administration to comply with the mandate.

The plan states: "The indoor use of face coverings by students, staff, and visitors who are age 2 and older and able to medically tolerate a face covering is required, regardless of vaccination status, consistent with CDC guidance."

Face coverings are required for all visitors, including at indoor athletic competition and are mandatory for all passengers and drivers of district buses and other vehicles transporting students.

Superintendent Jay Harnack said that while the district is required to enforce the mask mandate, they would help the students ease into the routine.

"It is a behavioral change," he said. "Do we have the expectation that they do it right every day? Yes. Will we assign consequences or detention right away. No."

No one asked to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Earlier in the day Monday, Harnack and the board policy committee, John Huston and Darcy Stonger, met with Illinois State Board of Education staff via Zoomto discuss the mandates and consequences of non-compliance.

The district's plan complies with Governor Pritzker's most recent executive order that all school personnel must have, at a minimum, the first dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series or a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine on or before Sept. 5, and be fully vaccinated within 30 days after getting their first dose of a two-dose vaccination series.

Any school personnel who have not established that they are fully vaccinated must be tested for COVID-19 weekly, at a minimum.

The board discussed the plan developed by administrators for dealing with spectators or visitors in the building that do not comply with the mask mandate.

Principal Jim Short stressed the plan's goal is to avoid creating a scene that will detract from any athletic contest.

"The kids are excited to be playing sports. The coaches are excited. I will not make a scene." Short said. He plans to make consequences clear to anyone not complying with the rule and walk away.

"If the mask goes on and stays on, the issue is dead," Short said. If the person does not comply, he will follow up at a later time. Non-compliance can result in a 30-day suspension from the campus.

Harnack stressed that having a plan for visitors is important.

"We are on a corrective course of action," Harnack said. "If pictures begin to show up and we are not compliant, they can take us back to probation. We have a significant responsibility, as administrators, to our students and athletes to do this right."