Naperville School District 203 Superintendent Dan Bridges and Indian Prairie School District 204 Superintendent Dr. Adrian Talley announced in separate press releases today that their respective districts will be shifting to a mask optional policy.
Additionally, unvaccinated faculty and staff will no longer be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.
“We understand that this is a shift in our mitigation strategies and it will be met with differing responses from all stakeholders. Regardless of your personal feelings regarding this shift, I am asking everyone to be kind and respectful of individual choice. Naperville 203 will not tolerate bullying or disrespectful behavior of any kind”, said Bridges.
SHIELD testing and masks will still be provided at the district’s schools for those who wish to use the services.
The district noted that they decided to make the change to policy due to the delay in the decision on the appeal to the temporary restraining order to school masking which was put in place by a Sangamon County judge, and the lack of clear guidance from Governor J.B. Pritzker’s office on how schools should transition in regards to masking.
District 204 will end its mask mandate starting February 22. The date of choice is to give time for families to “prepare for the change and adjustments to be made as appropriate,” as per the press release.
Dr. Talley mentioned his close communication with the DuPage County Health Department and consultation of the district’s agreed upon metrics led to the decision to change the policy. He noted the high percentage of vaccinated individuals in the seven zip codes that serve District 204, and the decline in positivity numbers for students and staff within the schools.
The district stressed the idea of community as the schools move forward.
“With this shift, it is important for all students and staff to know we are allowing people to make their choice and there should not be any questioning why such choices were made or bullying or harassing of people for their choices. We are a community of learners who celebrate our differences. We need to rebuild relationships as a school community and treat each other with the civility and kindness that we did prior to the pandemic”, said Talley.
Masks will still be required to be worn on buses per federal law. The new mitigations apply to all 203 and 204 students K-12 as well as faculty and in-school staff.
Early childhood and pre-school students will still be required to wear masks in school as there is not currently a vaccine for individuals 5 years old and younger.
The district changes come more than a week after a Sangamon County judge put a temporary restraining order on Governor J.B. Pritzker’s statewide school mask mandate. That decision is currently under appeal. Both districts noted that the outcome of the appeal could cause them to reevaluate their plans.
Additionally, Districts 203 and 204 will continue to monitor local COVID-19 numbers and metrics to decide if additional mitigations should be added or removed.
Naperville News 17’s Ryan Sartori reports.
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