South mask mandate lifted following Illinois developments


Rishi Lulla, Staff Writer

The mask mandate at South has been lifted following a ruling by a downstate judge that was then upheld by the state appellate court. The school is now following a mask-recommended policy, according to an email sent by Superintendent Dr. Charles Johns on Feb. 21.

Earlier this month in Illinois, the Sangamon County District Court granted a temporary restraining order that prohibited mask requirements, quarantines, Covid-19 vaccination mandates, and testing rules in more than 140 school districts throughout Illinois, following a parent-led suit, according to ABC7 Chicago. The ruling was made on Feb 4 and took effect on Feb 7. 

Immediately following the decision, Illinois governor JB Pritzker directed Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul to appeal it. On Feb 16, according to the Chicago Tribune, an Illinois legislative committee voted to block school districts not involved in the lawsuit from continuing to enforce restrictions, according to the Chicago Tribune.

All of this has led to the latest development. On Friday, Feb 18, the Illinois appellate court that was debating the mask mandate voted to block the governor from enforcing it in Illinois schools, according to NBC5. And, on Saturday, Feb 19, the district held an emergency meeting and ruled that the district would now officially enforce the policy of mask recommended. Superintendent Charles Johns sent an email to all parents and students informing them that the district was likely to go mask optional, while also assuring them that the district would continue to prioritize the health and safety of students. 

“We are working to put things in place so all students can come to school and feel safe,” Johns said. “Each individual should feel safe in their decision to wear or not wear a mask and be free from bullying or intimidation. I appreciate everyone joining together so that the District community can smoothly transition towards a mask-recommended environment.”

Meanwhile, both students and parents have taken issue to the fact that an email about the new policy was sent to staff on Friday morning but not to students or parents until the middle of the school day Friday. Dr. Johns apologized over the weekend, saying that he regretted the communication issue.

“I sincerely apologize for the timing of the communication to our families,” Johns said. “I wish I could provide a more timely update for our families. For the past few weeks, we planned for our transition to a mask-recommended environment to occur in a methodical and gradual manner. Unfortunately, given the events of the past week, we were no longer able to move as anticipated and had to move much more suddenly and reactively.”

The new policy does not come without certain exceptions. Masks must still be worn in the health office and training rooms, on buses and school transportation, on a limited basis to accommodate others, and in accordance with potential rises in cases or new legislative developments.

“I want to thank you for your flexibility and resilience as our school year continues to evolve. I know this has not been an easy year with continuing changes as we navigate how our environment looks,” Johns said. “Thank you for your patience as we continue to navigate these complex and frequently shifting scenarios. I will keep you informed of any changes and ask for your continued support and patience.”