Southern Ill. officials react to state’s new mask mandate for schools

Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 4:43 PM CDT
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HERRIN, Ill. (KFVS) - School leaders across Illinois are scrambling to respond to Governor JB Pritzker’s statewide mask mandate for Pre-K-12 grades.

At least one Heartland lawmaker is questioning the governor’s change in plans.

This comes after Wednesday’s announcement when Governor J.B. Pritzker implemented a mask mandate for all students Pre-K-12 while attending school.

“Right now, it was really one change, it was put a mask on your face when you’re coming to school now,” said Superintendent of Herrin School District Nathaniel Wilson.

He said the timing of the announcement is frustrating with classes begin later this month.

“As a superintendent or anybody in a position where you’re trying to plan for something as when you get it changed done or you made one plan and then you change again to adapt to another guideline and then you change again to adapt to a mandate that’s the frustrating part,” explained Wilson.

For the last month, Governor Pritzker had local officials making decisions on COVID-19. But now, that is changed with the new mask mandate in schools.

“For the past month we have had in Illinois a feeling of local control and that was a big push from superintendents is just give us local control to make decisions in our district, what works best for our local communities and districts. And so the local control piece was something we felt like we were going into this year with,” said Wilson.

Republican State Representative Patrick Windhorst said the governor should have stuck to his plan he announced last month.

“My belief is the decision the governor made a month ago was the right time, he let everyone know that this was going to be up to local school boards and local school boards made decisions based on that information he should of left it at that,” explained Windhorst.

He said this is why he believes it should have been left to the local governments.

“There is sufficient information that is in the public arena through the public health departments that could be given to school boards and superintendents to let them make educated decisions on this matter,” he said.

Herrin schools have a quick turnaround. Teachers return to the classroom Monday and students report to class August 18.

But Superintendent Wilson is looking forward to getting students back into the classroom.

“Biggest thing for us this year is we want to be in school all day, every day and we can do this. It’s just a matter of a can-do attitude and put our you know what real feelings about things are are to the side and let’s get into the school year, let’s find out what kind of cards we have to play, and we can make adjustments as necessary,” said Wilson.

Governor Pritzker’s announcement comes one week after the CDC strongly recommended masks in the classroom.

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