Hononegah: Masks highly recommended but no longer required
Hononegah Superintendent Michael J. Dugan emailed parents and staff Sunday evening saying, "In compliance with the court’s order, beginning tomorrow, the use of universal masking is highly recommended for all students but is not required within the building. Masking will still be required on all school busses." Prairie Hills School District sent out an almost identical letter.
Wearing masks on public transportation is a federal requirement, established by the CDC, not a state rule as were the rules "deemed null and void" by Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge Raylene W. Grischow on Friday.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul has said that he will appeal the court's order on Monday in the Illinois Appellate Court for the 4th District. Confusion over the meaning of the ruling meant that some school districts, such as Kinnikinnick, will continue to require masks, while others, such as Hononegah and Prairie Hill, will stop requiring masks in their buildings.
Dugan's full letter says:
As stated in my prior letter there were two different lawsuits pending in Sangamon County involving numerous plaintiffs suing many districts across the state including Hononegah. These two lawsuits challenge various aspects of the State’s Covid-19 requirements for schools.
Arguments on a temporary restraining order (TRO) concluded in both cases and the judge released her decision at 5 pm on Friday with no clarification. This caused much confusion and inaccurate reporting for that evening and much of Saturday. I thank our families and staff for their patience as we conferred with our legal team and other regional districts determining how to discern, communicate and implement the findings of this decision.
Hononegah was one of the first large high schools to open for in-person learning in the state after the initial outbreak and we have remained open for in-person learning throughout the three years of the pandemic to better serve our students and families. The district has followed the changing CDC recommendations since the beginning of the pandemic. The recommended mitigations include universal indoor masking by all students, staff, teachers, and visitors to our school, regardless of vaccination status. In addition to universal indoor masking, we maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms to reduce transmission risk.
Screening testing, ventilation, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, staying home when sick and getting tested, contact tracing in combination with quarantine and isolation, and cleaning and disinfection are also important layers of prevention we have instituted to keep our school safe and open.
In compliance with the court’s order, beginning tomorrow, the use of universal masking is highly recommended for all students but is not required within the building. Masking will still be required on all school busses.
An appeal to this decision was expected by either side after the decision was released. The Attorney General is appealing this decision at the appellate court level on Monday. A decision by the appellate court will be made within ten days after the judge’s decision. A stay could be granted which would extend the Governor’s Mandates until a decision by the appellate court. The appellate court could uphold or reverse this court’s decision. Whatever the ultimate outcome, as always, Hononegah will follow the law.
Hononegah Community High School is fully committed to our students, faculty, and community. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding this issue or the impact it can have on Hononegah, please contact me directly.
Michael J. Dugan