GRANITE CITY, Ill. – Masking decisions are left up to local school districts in Illinois.
While some Madison County districts have recently decided how they will deal with masking in schools for the upcoming school year, the Granite City School District does not have a set plan in place quite yet.
“My district is one of the last districts, I think, to come out with their return to school plans; there is a lot of reasons I really felt the need to push it back as long as I could,” said Stephanie Cann, Granite City School District superintendent.
“One of those being all of the national, regional, local mitigation, and COVID infection rates. They ranged over nine since the beginning of July. Our vaccination rate also for Madison county is between 27-30 percent which is relatively low as well.”
New CDC guidance was released just hours before the school board meeting Tuesday. The guidance recommends masking indoors for teachers, staff, students, and visitors at school.
Cann said she will be looking at this guidance, along with other resources to make a decision.
“We know that masks are required on busses, that’s a transportation issue, so having masks with them in non-socially distanced areas is probably things we are looking at,” she said.
Cann said she is aiming to release a draft of the plan on Friday, but said this is a fluid situation.
“I just hope that they are optional. Parents have a choice. Parents know their kids the best. Nobody is saying you can’t wear a mask; we just want parents to have a choice,” said Ari Tyler, an incoming kindergarten parent at Granite City School District.
“There are parents who are thinking of other options for school, some are looking at private school, some are looking at homeschooling. Overall, it’s hard to wait.”
Cann said, “I understand those differences of opinions I still have the ultimate responsibility to make sure my students and my kids are safe when they are at school.”
The new CDC guidance released Tuesday had strong support from Dr. Rachel Charney, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.
“A lot of my advice has been strongly directed by the Delta variant right now,” she said. “What we know is that the Delta variant really changed the game a lot a month or so ago.”
“Our numbers were going down, things were looking a lot safer, our vaccine levels were continuing to go up. Since then, our cases are just continuing to go upwards.”
“We know that children are representing a larger and larger, larger percentage of our cases, and the way to keep our kids safe in school, and to keep the schools from getting outbreaks that make them close, is to keep them masked,” Dr. Charney said.
She said this recommendation also makes it easier to understand.
“It’s nice for me to see our science groups aligning in their advice because I think it really makes things a lot clearer to a parent, then when one group is telling you one thing, and another is telling you something else,” Dr. Charney said.