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Wabash County Schools Clarifies Reopening Plan Following Confusion

The decision is nothing new. The board actually voted on the issue during its May 17 regular meeting after receiving no questions from board members or the public and a unanimous 6-0 approval.

Posted: Jul 20, 2021 12:33 AM
Updated: Jul 20, 2021 12:48 AM

The Wabash County Community Schools District clarified its plan to no longer require masks, and return to pre-pandemic conditions and procedures for the upcoming school year during a regular meeting Thursday.

“The district recognizes that some people may want to continue wearing a mask but therefore, in the beginning of the school year, mask-wearing will be optional for any student or personnel that’s either vaccinated or unvaccinated," WCUSD Board President Tom Schuler said.

The decision is nothing new. The board actually voted on the issue during its May 17 regular meeting after receiving no questions from board members or the public and a unanimous 6-0 approval.

Schuler only mentioned the return to school plan again at the request of Superintendent Dr. Chuck Bleyer, following confusion from the community over the district’s stance on mask-wearing.

In a recent statement, Bleyer said superintendents throughout the state had been reaching out to the Illinois State Board of Education, State Health Department and Governor’s office requesting local control in implementing reopening plans. On July 10, that request was granted with the ISBE saying mask-wearing rules would be returned to local districts.

“Basically it’s up to everybody to decide on their own with their parents if they want to wear a mask or not," Schuler said.

Now, with the clarification from the state, WCUSD is confidently saying "no more" to the mask mandate,

“If they think it’s OK, I’m not going to go against it," said Patrick Walter, a Mt. Carmel father of four. "I know it’s annoying for them to wear at certain times and it’s hard as kids to remind them everywhere we have to go -- it’s different to them from the normality that they’re used to.”

While Walter said he can accept the board’s decision, his wife and three of his children contracted COVID-19, so while cases tick up in the Tri-State he said he would like to see some safety measures remain.

“I would like to see [masks] when they’re in groups," he said. “It is highly contagious. A lot of people, you don’t know where they have been or their functions have been so I’d like to just play it safe for right now until the world as a whole can get a grip on this and we can find something that works.”

During Thursday's meeting, Bleyer said masks will not be required on school buses either.

Illinois has mandated masks be worn on public transportation, but Bleyer said because the district’s buses are not public, WCUSD has the say over whether to enforce a mask mandate.

Bleyer also mentioned remote learning policies for the upcoming year.

Per state guidelines, it is only allowed if students have an approved medical reason.

Remote learners will not be allowed to take part in extracurricular activities and fear of COVID-19 is not an excuse to learn remotely.

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It was an absolutely gorgeous day across the Tri-State; temperatures climbed back into the upper 40s low 50s area-wide earlier this afternoon. Evansville‘s afternoon high temperature of 49° was our warmest in nearly a week. As for the evening ahead, temperatures will be relatively stable as a breezy southerly wind continues to bolster the mercury throughout the region; temperatures around 42° at dinner time will only fall as low as 41° by midnight. An inbound cold front moving in overnight tonight and early tomorrow morning will begin to generate chances of rainfall as early as the predawn hours on Wednesday.
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