Troy, Illinois school district decides masks aren’t required, except when a teacher says so

Illinois

TROY, Ill. – Triad Community Unit #2 School District’s Board of Education approved the framework for the return to learn plan for the upcoming school year.

The plan reads,

As we begin the 2021-22 school year, masks will not be required at all times during the school day. However, masks are strongly encouraged for all students that are not vaccinated. Every student should bring a mask to school daily. There are currently two situations when students/staff will be required to wear a mask:
– On a school bus
– When directed by an adult

Some parents at the meeting took issue with the wording of this part of the plan and said this is “ambiguous” and gives “teacher choice” instead of “parent choice.”

“We feel each parent should have an individual choice as the medical intervention used on their children, we do consider masks a medical intervention,” Ryan Cunningham, a parent in the TRIAD district, said.

“The requirement, ‘when directed by an adult,’ is ambiguous,” another parent said to the board during public comment.

The district’s plan gave the following example of when a student may be required to put on a mask: “As an example of this situation, a teacher may ask students to put on a mask when completing a science lab where partners will be in close contact for an extended period of time. Teachers will have the autonomy to have their students wear masks for periods of time when they feel that the students are in close contact.”

The plan also said, “there may be times during the school year due to increased rates in the community, that a mandatory mask policy will be implemented for a short time until transmission decreases.”

According to the plan, parents are able to request that their child be put in a classroom where masks will always be worn.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily a wear a mask or don’t, I think it’s more of our right to decide whether we wear a mask or not and not anybody else’s but our own and our parents,” said Avery Brooks, an upcoming junior at TRIAD High School.

A strong majority of people in attendance at the meeting voiced their opinions against requiring masks in schools. Some moments of the meeting were heated and one man was escorted out of the meeting by law enforcement.

“Please consider rewording this return to learn plan, and give parents full choice, we have faith in your leadership so please have faith in our parenting,” TRIAD Parent Megan Cunningham said in her address to the board during public comment Monday night.

The plan also lays out that students are eligible for weekly saliva COVID testing with parent permission. During the meeting, TRIAD Superintendent Leigh Lewis said parents can opt-out, which is also outlined in the plan:

“At the start of the school year, screening will be made available to students once per week and will take approximately 5 minutes to complete the process. Saliva samples are collected, transported, and analyzed by a CLIA-certified lab partner, and results are provided in less than a 24-hour period. This screening targets specific COVID (PCR) markers and can be used to detect the presence of COVID for individuals who are displaying symptoms or are asymptomatic. Once completed, all samples that have been collected are permanently destroyed.

Students participating in the school testing program will be eligible for the modified definition of close contact in a classroom setting. Currently, the modified definition for classroom close contacts are those who come within 3 feet or less of a COVID-19 positive individual for a cumulative time of 15 minutes or more. Students who are not vaccinated and do not participate in the weekly screening program are considered close contacts at 6 feet or less of a COVID-19 positive individual for a cumulative time of 15 minutes.

Next week, parents will be notified of a form to complete in Skyward Family Access that will allow them to opt-out of the weekly COVID screening program.

“It’s one prevention strategy that parents can choose to have their students participate in,” the superintendent said during the meeting.

The decision from TRIAD comes on the heels of the mask mandate in St. Louis City and County where COVID cases are rising again.

The latest numbers from Madison County show there is an uptick in cases, but nowhere near the spike seen in the fall and winter.

“I don’t want to see a mask mandate happen here, I don’t want to see that restriction imposed on us in this region or this area, I feel there are probably some people pushing for that initiative but I think we are beyond that,” Cunningham said.

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