Morton superintendent’s push to ask state leader for local mask control worries some parents

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MORTON, Ill (WMBD) — Morton School District 709 will follow the state’s mask mandate in schools starting this fall.

It comes just days after the school board voted to make masks optional for the start of the year. On Monday, Superintendent Jeff Hill encouraged parents to reach out to state leaders and ask for local control on mask policies.

“An executive order is the same as the law. Our attorney highly recommended that we follow the executive order,” said Hill.

Now, some parents said they’re worried about COVID-19 spreading in schools. Parents like Kshe Bernard said masks offer a level of protection to her kids.

“My grade-schoolers have not had a chance to get that vaccine. I want to protect their health. I want to protect all the children’s health,” said Bernard.

A day before the state mandate, the Morton School Board voted to make masks optional. Bernard said the district is trying to get back to that point.

“Right now, they are trying to garner support to go against the state mandate,” said Bernard.

Hill posted a 14-minute-long video on the district’s Facebook page Monday about the district’s plans. At one point, he shared contact information for state leaders asking parents to push for local control in the masking decision.

“Contact the governor [and] contact our legislators to let them know the community of Morton has handled this before and can handle it again,” said Hill.

Last week, school board member Bart Rinkenberger took to his own Facebook to ask parents to show support for optional masks and called the mandate appalling.

“Encourage our school board to be courageous and hold to the original plan that they already approved,” said Rinkenberger.

Parent Erin L’hommedieu-Neavor said it was hard to watch.

“I think my initial instinct was that of frustration and sadness,” said L’Hommedieu-Neavor.

Her kids are vaccinated, but she’s watching data as the virus spreads.

“As we get more information about ICU beds becoming not available, we have to pay attention to the people who are taking care of those who are sick and dying from this,” said L’Hommedieu-Neavor.

It’s something she hopes district leaders do too.

On Tuesday, Jeff Hill released a statement on board member Rinkenberger’s Facebook video. It said in part, “Individual board members do not speak on behalf of the board nor the district.”

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