Important Update from District 39

Important Update from District 39
Posted on 02/06/2022

District 39 is proud of the ways in which we have continued to collectively navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, including the recent surge, to provide our students with invaluable in-person instruction. We thank you for your partnership in support of these efforts. The purpose of this letter is to update you on court rulings that took place in Sangamon County. 

On Friday, a court ruling resulted in a temporary restraining order enjoining the Governor from enforcing his executive orders that require universal masking in schools as well as mandatory vaccinations or COVID-19 testing for school employees. Approximately 150 of Illinois’ 840 school districts are named in the lawsuits; Wilmette Public Schools District 39 was not named in the lawsuit. Nonetheless, we have been following the case, studying the potential ramifications its rulings may have for our schools, and expect to learn more in the coming days. The Governor has already indicated he will appeal this ruling, which may lead to its immediate reversal and/or continued litigation and decision adjustments. Given the lack of class certification and ambiguity in the language of the ruling, because future court rulings may go back and forth, and because constantly changing school mitigation in accordance would create confusion and disruption in our schools, we will continue with our current mitigation measures for the near future pending additional information and evaluation of options for adjustments and increased local decision-making. 

In the short term, the Wilmette Public Schools will continue to expect universal masking indoors in its buildings. We are maintaining current school mitigation measures for the near future while we take time to more deeply understand the court rulings and potential impact on our schools and simultaneously try to maintain stability for our students and school operations throughout the unpredictable appeals process. We expect to learn more in the next 10 days and are eager to thoughtfully consider options if increased local decision-making is available to us. 

Our District 39 Board of Education passed a resolution in August regarding school plans and mitigation efforts to provide stability as we navigate the pandemic and maintain our in-person instructional programs. As we anticipate increased options for local control, we are working on a comprehensive plan that considers an “off ramp” for some mitigations, such as universal masking, based on factors that include the prevalence of the virus in our schools and the community, vaccination rates, and other layered mitigation efforts that help to keep students and staff safe. Given the recent downward trend of COVID-19 cases within our local and neighboring communities, we believe it is appropriate to continue conversations to review options for updated mitigation plans for when local control becomes available in consistent and reliable ways. It is important to note that D39 is reviewing these plans based on current data and as conditions evolve. We remain hopeful that revised guidance will come from the State but will be prepared if local control is granted before that time. As previously planned, mitigation efforts will be discussed by the Board at their upcoming Committee of the Whole Meeting on Monday, February 14.

As a school community, we are asking for your support, patience and understanding while we seek stability for our students, deepen our understanding of our local control options based on the recent court rulings, and continue to review our comprehensive mitigation plans. We need stability in our COVID mitigation efforts, and as we navigate the unpredictable times. We do not want our students or our staff to be subject to confusing shifts and contradictory mask decisions that could change day-to-day based on court orders. We also want you, as parents, to know what you can expect every day within our schools. We will continue to monitor the appeals process and rulings for this case as they apply to our district and local control of mitigation efforts, including options for masking. The pandemic has required our collective action and partnership to keep our schools and community safe, and we know that together we can continue to successfully navigate these new developments, as well. 

The safety of our students, faculty, and staff remains our top priority. Our commitment to safe, in-person instruction has not wavered. However, we believe that the current landscape dictates that we chart a thoughtful and diligent path forward as we consider appropriate adjustments. 

We appreciate your continued partnership and are grateful for your support.

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