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GRANITE CITY, Ill. – The first day back-to-school for students in the Granite City School District is about five weeks away, on Aug. 19.

As summer winds down, parents with a group called Speak For Students are eager to learn if their students will be required to wear a mask when school starts again, and they gathered outside the board meeting with signs to make their voices heard. 

One of the leaders of the group said their goal is to have masks be a choice for parents and not mandated.

 “We don’t want it to be you have to go to unmasked, or you have to geo masked, we just want the parent’s choice,” Kayla McLain, a parent of four students in GCSD, said. 

“These decisions should be left in the hands of the parents and not up to school boards or the state, or anybody else.”

Reopening plans were not a part of the school board’s agenda Tuesday night, but parents said they were outside to let district leaders know where some parents stand on the decision to mask or unmask before a decision is made.

Granite City School District Superintendent Stephanie Cann said reopening plans should be ready at the next school board meeting, which is set for July 27. 

“My utmost goal is not just the education of my students, but the safety of their educational environment, as well and for my teachers and staff, so I have to think about all of those things when making a decision,” Superintendent Cann said.

The parents outside the board meeting Tuesday said they also plan to rally outside the July 27 meeting.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its COVID-19 guidelines Friday. It advises vaccinated students and teachers do not need to wear a mask.

Cann said the Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois Department of Education accepted the CDC’s guidance. 

“I’m excited that we’re actually going back to school, last year we were worried about even letting kids into school, so I think this is a win situation anyway by having our kids coming back,” Cann said.

The CDC said its guidance is meant to supplement and not replace local guidelines or mandates. That puts the mask mandate decision in local control. 

“We know that they are making the best decision they can, given the circumstances, but that we hope that they will strongly consider allowing parents to make their own choices,” McLain said.