OTHS, District 90 move to optional masks

By Pam Funk, Weekly Reporter

O’FALLON – Considering the recent temporary restraining order issued by an Illinois judge regarding mask requirements in schools, both O’Fallon township High School 203 (OTHS) and O’Fallon District 90 (D90) have made masks in schoolbuildings optional.

OTHS students have had the option on whether to wear a mask or not since the end of the board meeting on February 9. D90 students will have the option beginning February 11. Both districts emphasized that masking will still be required on school busses, per federal requirements.

Over 100 community members, including students, attended the February 9 OTHS board meeting with over 20 of them speaking to the board. Comments ranged from supporting the mask optional policy to opposing the policy and possible bullying for those students who choose to continue wearing a mask. 

In a communication to OTHS parents, students, and employees, Superintendent Darcy Benway stated, “School leaders will continue to monitor COVID-19 metrics moving forward. Should the spread of COVID-19 again surge in our community, masking may need to be implemented by the Board of Education in the future as a safety mitigation”.

All other OTHS safety mitigations and protocols will remain the same. The board is expected to discuss quarantine and close contact mitigations at their next board meeting on February 17.

In a communication to D90 families and staff, Superintendent Carrie Hruby stated “Thank you for your patience this week as we reviewed the many layers of this challenging issue. District 90 has always been a community that supports one another and treats one another with respect. While there are differing opinions on the best path forward, I appreciate the respectful interactions we’ve received. We appreciate your support of the D90 staff who are doing their best to ensure in-person learning”.

On January 27, D90 had 163 positive student cases and 15 staff. On February 8, there were 31 positive students and 0 staff. Given the decreasing positive cases, D90 decided to move to a mask recommended policy. Preschool students will still be required to wear a mask in classrooms except during naptime and snack time. 

D90 will continue to monitor data and may need to make changes to mitigations and protocols if positive case numbers increase drastically. Parents who have concerns and wish to discuss options for increased mitigation layers for their individual child are encouraged to contact the building principal to begin conversations about options such as seating, additional PPE, or desk shields.