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VG BOE changes mitigation plan to recommend masks

By Kendra Hennis 
The Villa Grove Board of Education held a special meeting on Monday, February 14 at 6 p.m. to discuss possible changes to the COVID mitigation plan. 

The meeting began with public comment from numerous concerned parents and residents in Villa Grove asking the board to change their policy following their recent developments, and urging them to give students an option to not wear a mask to school. 

The board began discussion with a letter from board member Bill Fulk, who was unable to attend, who said that he believed the board has been doing what has been advised of them and stated that he approved moving to a mask-optional policy. He also asked that parents ask their children to respect other students who would like to wear a mask. Many board members echoed, stating their care for the school and students and wanting to do what is best for them. Board member Kristen White noted that their biggest goal is to keep children in schools. And stated that while she believes the policy should move to be recommended, she also believes there should be a threshold future placed by the board to avoid potential outbreaks. Board member Jerrad Zimmerman stated that “There is science that is supporting being able to lift some of these mandates and the risk for people because they’ve had exposure to this virus much less than when we started. I think with the things we’ve done and how we’ve been a strict school with this, we have also protected our school. And if you compare our attendance rate to districts around us, the mitigation plan we put in place has worked.” 

Survey results from the school showed that 80.4 percent of the 383 families who responded were in favor of masks being recommended for students, and 19.6 percent preferring masks to be optional. Staff responses also showed that the majority of the staff were in favor of moving to a recommended rather than required policy. 

At the end of the discussion with agreement among the board, board president Jim Clark made a motion to “change the policy to recommend from required mask wearing in the school and on buses, no longer require staff to be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing, and no longer quarantine close contacts unless ordered by the health department.” The motion was unanimously approved by the board that then adjourned at 6:40 p.m. 

Following the meeting, Superintendent Carol Munson sent an email to VG district #302 families stating, “Tonight at a special meeting the Villa Grove School Board voted to change their COVID Mitigation Plan from mask required to mask recommended for all students, staff, and visitors. This includes all indoor settings and on a school bus. Further, close contact exclusion will only happen with an order from the local health department or IDPH. These changes will take effect immediately. COVID testing will continue to be available at school with parental permission. Student and staff safety continues to be a priority. If your student is showing signs and symptoms of illness, please keep them home. Your support and cooperation will be needed to help maintain students attending in person.”

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