Rochelle schools temporarily move to mask recommended policy

Judge’s temporary restraining order also changes other COVID-19 policies

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ROCHELLE — In a Sunday letter to parents of all Rochelle schools students, Superintendent Jason Harper said starting Monday, Feb. 7, both districts will temporarily move to a mask recommended policy for students and staff.

On Friday, a judge in Sangamon County issued temporary restraining orders related to the Governor’s COVID-19 executive orders and emergency rules issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) regarding COVID-19 mitigation strategies for students and staff in school.

The judge also declared IDPH’s and ISBE’s emergency rules related to masking, student/staff exclusions for quarantine as “close contacts,” and staff vaccination/testing requirements are null and void.

“Neither of the Rochelle School Districts were a party to this lawsuit so the judge’s order does not expressly apply to our districts,” Harper’s letter said. “However, Rochelle Township High School District 212 has been named in a follow up lawsuit regarding student masking and quarantines and our legal counsel has advised us to consider RTHS as a named party to the judge’s ruling on Friday. Additionally, our legal representatives interpret the judge’s current ruling to invalidate the Governor’s executive orders and IDPH’s and ISBE’s rules, rendering these mandates unenforceable against every school district in the state.”

As of Monday, COVID-19-related changes at the school district also include: temporarily ceasing quarantining staff/students who are asymptomatic close contacts, temporarily suspending the staff testing requirement for non-vaccinated staff; and students and staff who are COVID-19 symptomatic will remain excluded from school for the time periods set forth in the IDPH’s Exclusion Protocol.

The temporary restraining order did not extend to the IHSA and IESA requirements that have already been issued. The district will continue to follow the IHSA and IESA requirements, the letter said.

Masks are still required on all district transportation due to the continued CDC mandate requiring face coverings on public transportation.

Harper advised parents that litigation is still ongoing as the Governor’s office stated intent to appeal the decision.

“It is entirely possible the judge’s Feb. 4 decision voiding these COVID-19 mitigation mandates will be stayed on Monday or Tuesday or reversed on appeal by the appellate court,” Harper wrote. “In that event, these mandates regarding masks, exclusion for ‘close contacts’ and vaccine/testing for staff will be quickly reinstated. We have been advised to expect a finalized legal decision within the next two weeks.”