Greetings PORTA Bluejays,
I would like to offer some information about the current mask mandate in an attempt to inform all of our families and community members of the facts revolving around this very sensitive issue.
It is obvious some community members do not believe that the Governor has the authority to mandate mask wearing in schools and that the School Board has the authority to circumvent the mandate and School Code. Unfortunately, this is untrue, in a communication from the State Superintendent all district Superintendents were notified that the “Executive Order has the full force of law and that for those districts who choose noncompliance school accreditation will likely be revoked pursuant to 23 Ill Admin Cod 1.20. In fact, ISBE has already revoked school accreditation for this very issue in one school district in Chicago and has sent numerous other letters to school districts who have openly defied the mask mandate. All of the districts are now on probationary status until they rectify the code violation and in 60 days will lose accreditation in not rectified.
To further clarify, if a school district’s State accreditation is revoked, the district cannot levy taxes, receive State or Federal Funds, participate in IHSA/IESA activities or offer a diploma to a graduating senior. Defying the current mandate also allows insurance companies the window to deny overage to the district and school board members.
So, moving forward, I believe it is safe to say that many Board of Education members, administration and staff sympathize with the attitude to defy this latest mandate, but it is obviously not in the best interest of students and our community to knowingly place district resources and state recognition at risk.
It has been our goal all summer to return to school full days and 5 days a week and we have developed a plan that will allow the district to do so and have a great deal of latitude when making determinations on who must quarantine in the case of close contacts and positive COVID cases. We are finalizing plans to offer voluntary weekly saliva-based testing through a program called “shield”, which then allows the district to conduct a “test to stay” testing regime. In the latest “test to stay” program students who are following guidelines and have had a close contact with a positive case may opt for the “test to stay” program. Those students will be able to test on subsequent days (1,3,5, and 7) after the contact and if those tests are negative the student is not quarantined. If on day 5 the student tests positive we will quarantine but will start that quarantine period as of the initial close contact, reducing the number of student absent days. The idea is to stop long term quarantine related to close contacts. Too many were quarantined under last year’s guidelines and never were infected with the virus. We believe this is a very good way to reduce your time away from work and your students time away from school and it all is contingent of following the current guidelines in place.
On August 19, 2021 the board will be asked to approve our safe return to school plan which includes following the current mask mandate, if that mandate changes in the future the plan will be amended to meet current guidelines. Student attendance will begin on August 17, 2021 and all students, staff and visitors to the district will be required to follow current Covid-19 mitigation rules, masking included.
The PORTA administration and staff ask, implore our families to please provide a mask for your students. We do not want to be placed in an adversarial position with the students and families, whom we love and respect. In the instance we have students who refuse to wear a mask, we will offer the opportunity to change their mind and then will treat the issue s a dress code violation, ultimately leading to removal from the building. Obviously, we do not want to do that, we want our students in class every day, learning. Please help us meet our goals, we will be as understanding as possible but will enforce all current mandates.