Algonquin-based School District 300 administrative office | Photo: Elara Engineering

Algonquin-based School District 300 board members voted Sunday to no longer require masks or exclude close contacts from school beginning Tuesday.

The District 300 Board of Education voted 5-2 in favor of ending mandatory mask usage for students and staff in its schools.

Board members Christine Birkett and Nancy Zettler voted against removing the mask requirement among other COVID-19 mitigation changes.

District 300 Superintendent Susan Harkin said staff and families were surveyed last week regarding a mask-recommended environment.

The Sunday board meeting was called after the Fourth District Court of Appeals late Thursday dismissed Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s appeal of a lower court ruling that blocked his mask and exclusion rules for students.

The appellate court said the emergency rules promulgated by the governor’s executive order expired and new rules filed last week were blocked by a legislative panel. The court dismissed Pritzker’s appeal as “moot.”

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During the virtual board meeting, District 300 Board of Education President David Scarpino noted that the district’s COVID-19 testing positivity rate was 0.1% in the past week and the majority of the schools in the district had no COVID-19 cases.

Scarpino, who voted to go mask-optional, said he believes and supports the courts and judge’s decision that it is up to the local board of education to determine COVID-19 mitigations.

Students and staff will still be required to wear masks on school buses due to the federal mandate.

Staff members that are not fully vaccinated will no longer have to submit to weekly COVID-19 testing.

Students and staff designated as close contacts of those who test positive for the virus will no longer be required to be excluded from school.

The changes in the district will go into effect Tuesday.

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District 300 was one of many defendants named in a lawsuit brought on by parents and employees who argued against a number of COVID-19 safety measures in schools.

Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge Raylene Grischow earlier this month issued a ruling in the lawsuit and deemed the governor’s emergency rules through the Illinois Department of Public Health “null and void” when it comes to COVID-19 mitigations in schools.

“The arbitrary method as to contact tracing and masking in general continue to raise fair questions as to the legality of the Executive Orders in light of violations of healthy children’s substantive due process rights,” Grischow said in the ruling.

“Statutory rights have attempted to be bypassed through the issuance of Executive Orders and Emergency Rules … This type of evil is exactly what the law was intended to constrain,” Grischow said.

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