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5 Heartland schools on Ill. Dept. of Education’s probation list over mask mandate

Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 5:17 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 19, 2021 at 5:33 AM CDT
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GOREVILLE, Ill. (KFVS) - The Illinois Department of Education is not messing around when it comes to the state’s school mask mandate.

Schools not complying risk losing state funding; and right now, five Heartland districts find themselves on the department’s probation list.

There are two in Jefferson County and one each in Franklin, Williamson and Hamilton Counties.

If school leaders don’t correct the issue, they can also lose the ability to participate in sports.

But Goreville C.U.S.D 1 is complying with the state’s universal mask mandate.

“I’m so proud of the way they’re handled this mandatory mask mandate right at the last minute,” said Goreville Schools Superintendent Steve Webb.

Webb believes kids want to be in school, that’s why they will cooperate.

“They want to go to their activities, they want to play softball and baseball and track, cross country and whatever. They know from last year that all that can be taken away from them. And they don’t want to be the cause for that,” said Webb.

West Frankfort Superintendent Matt Donkin said his district welcomed back students on Friday.

Donkin said throughout the West Frankfort Schools, they have had no issues with the mask mandate.

“We went through all of this last year. And we really didn’t have a problem with students in mask last year, haven’t noticed one this year again, it’s the trade off. We want to be, we’re happy to be in person, all day regular school day regular school term,” explained Donkin.

Donkin said some staff and students have COVID-19, they are being quarantined at home.

“Our goal a year ago was let’s get back to normal. We are as close to normal right now as we can get. And we’re going to do the things that we can to stay that way and be at the business that we’re supposed to be,” he said.

At Goreville, Webb said teachers are giving students multiple opportunities to get outside to take their mask off, but he wants to give students as normal of a school year as possible.

“The emphasis for us is to make sure that they have a great experience and that they have every single opportunity that they had before the pandemic,” said Webb.

Webb wished the mask mandate could be determined locally.

“I wish we could of maintained the parents making that decision on whether their child wears a mask, but we can’t. And that’s just the way it is,” he said.

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