North Greene Votes to Follow Governor’s Mask Mandate

By Benjamin Cox on August 14, 2021 at 9:07am

A Greene County school that recently held contentious debate over the school mask mandate has decided to follow the guidance.

North Greene School District #3 voted Wednesday night 4-1 to opt to follow Governor J.B. Pritzker’s mask mandate for schools in the state.

North Greene Superintendent Mark Scott says that the school board opted to follow his recommendation along with several other organizations, and ultimately, the experts when it came to masks in schools. Scott says a letter sent out from the Illinois State Board of Education was released shortly before the North Greene School Board met Wednesday night: “[ISBE] is stating that [school boards] don’t have local control over this. This is mandated by the governor and you should follow it or we are going to slap your hand and possibly pull your accreditation and your funding. That came out at 4 o’clock, which I got it sent out to board members before our meeting at 6. Our district legal counsel said you need to follow the mandate. Our insurance company said you need to follow the mandate. Illinois Association of School Boards said you need to follow the mandate. ISBE said you need to follow the mandate. I recommend that we need to follow the mandate. Four of the board members present voted to follow the mandate. One has personal opinions just the opposite and voted against it and doesn’t think we should have to wear a mask, which everyone is entitled to their opinion.”

Scott says he doesn’t like mixing politics with education. His ultimate goal is keeping school open: “I don’t think whether you’re Republican, Independent, Democrat, whatever you are – the governor of Illinois put forth a mandate. ISBE says they are going to enforce it. All of the associations that I belong to and the school board belongs to says we need to follow it. Our legal counsel tells us to follow it. Our insurance company tells us to follow it. IDPH tell us to follow it. The local health department says we need to follow it. The CDC tells us to follow it. That’s all I need to make my decision. There is people out there that are way more educated on health matters and infectious diseases than what I’ll ever be. I’m going to listen to the experts.”

Scott says any student or staff who violate the mask policy will be cited for gross misconduct and be sent home immediately.

Scott says he shares frustrations with everyone, but he ultimately wants to keep the school open, keep away from remote learning, and to keep everyone safe: “To me, when the Governor puts the mandate whether you think he legally can or not. He’s the governor of Illinois. We are an Illinois public school. We follow under ISBE’s guidelines. We rely on a lot of state aid from the State of Illinois. How can you not follow it? I don’t know. That’s just where my feelings lie. I wish it would have stayed recommended, but just like the Governor uses his researchers and everything and they say that we should wear a mask right now. It just all a big mess. To me, the main thing is to keep the kids in school, and if we’ve got to wear masks to keep them in school, I’m all for it. I don’t want to have to go back to this remote learning business no matter what. If we’ve got to wear a mask to stay in school, I’m fine with it.”

Smaller school districts have faced extreme push back from some parents about requiring masks in schools. Pikeland’s School Board voted on Friday to follow the mask mandate, according to WGEM. The Warsaw school district was notified Thursday night in a letter from the Illinois State Board of Education that the district’s recognition status has been lowered to “On Probation” for being non-compliant with masking requirements. Nearby, Camp Point Central’s School Board said Wednesday during their board hearing in a 3-2 vote that masks would be optional for students. The Meridian school district in Macon County voted last week to stick with a mask-optional policy, as well.

Most school districts return to learning for the Fall in the next two weeks.