Dear District 57 Families,
As I shared in my recent communication
, District 57 is one of 145 school district defendants named in Austin v. Pritzker
, a lawsuit brought by parents across the state challenging the state’s mask mandate and required exclusion of close contacts from school. There is also a second lawsuit, Allen v. Pritzker
, which was brought by staff members in schools across Illinois challenging the state requirement for staff masking in school and the weekly testing of unvaccinated staff.
On the evening of Friday 4, 2022, a court decision was issued that has a significant impact on Illinois schools, particularly those named as defendants. The court held that the Governor and state agencies such as the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) do not have the authority to mandate masks at school, exclude students for having symptoms of COVID-19 or being close contacts, or require COVID-19 vaccinations or testing of school personnel. The court held that only the state legislature has the authority to mandate these COVID-19 prevention strategies in schools. On Saturday, February 5, 2022 the Illinois Attorney General filed an appeal to this ruling. This is obviously a very complex situation. Rest assured, we will continue to monitor all of the various outcomes of the litigation and the appeal as the situation unfolds. The last few years have taught us that we can get through adversity together.
Immediate Implications for District 57
As a result of these developments, District 57 will begin to transition our practices in order to align with the court’s rulings.
- District 57 will continue to prioritize social distancing of 3-6 feet, enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols in our facilities, and encourage proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.
- Effective immediately, face masks will be optional at school and all school-related events for both students and staff, at least during the Temporary Restraining Order time period. We strongly recommend, but will not require, the wearing of face masks at school. Masks are still required to be worn on school-based transportation, due to the Federal Transportation Administration regulations. Schools operate best when rules are consistent and straightforward. Under the circumstances, we believe that this approach will be more realistic to enforce and will allow our staff members to focus on educating students instead of enforcing mask compliance.
District 57 will not be contact-tracing nor exclude close contacts. Any student who is currently excluded due to being identified as a close contact may return to school effective Monday. If your child is ill, please keep them at home until they are healthy. Students must be fever-free for a period of 24-hours, with no vomiting or diarrhea, before they can return to school. District 57 will continue to provide weekly SHIELD testing for those who choose to participate. If you have previously opted out but would now like your child to begin participating, please email your principal.
As you can appreciate, this ligation has caused a great deal of confusion and upset within our community. The situation will remain in flux for some time, at least until the appellate court issues its ruling on the appeal filed by the Illinois Attorney General. We need your help keeping students calm and focused on learning. Our main priority has always been to ensure the health and safety of our students, staff members, parents, family members, and residents of our community. The recent court decision does not change that.
Despite the challenges of the last two years, we have not wavered in our commitment to your children. We appreciate your continued support as we navigated the pandemic and ever-changing legal situation.
In the spirit of education,
Dr. Mary Gorr