Rural school district highly recommending masks for school year, not requiring

Local News

LONDON MILLS, Ill. (WMBD) – About 30 miles west of Peoria, a rural school district is keeping to its school board’s original back to school plan regarding masks.

Spoon River Valley School District will allow parents to decide whether their kids will wear masks in school this year. Masks will be highly recommended, but not required.

“There was a lot of thought that should be based on a local decision,” said Chris Janssen, Superintendent of Spoon River Valley School District.

On Aug. 4, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a mandate requiring masks in all Illinois public schools. This came two days after the school board already approved its plan.

Janssen said the conflicting decisions stirred a tense school board meeting on Aug. 9.

“A lot of the discussions taking place is the fact of the frustration, and the fact the governor had put out there would be local decisions and local control on that matter,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of tension that has been created in our community by decisions that have not been made by anyone in the community.”

He said Spoon River is not the only rural school district that feels this way.

“Its caused a lot of turmoil in not only in our community, but a lot of other small communities in the area,” he said.

One parent, who did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation, said most people in the community want the decision about masking left up to the parent.

“Out here, I think it’s more like 75[%] to 25 [%]. 75% don’t want the mask. Most of the people I know or talked to, they don’t want the mask,” she said.

Destany Ayer’s children will be attending preschool and kindergarten at Spoon River Valley this year. She believes masks just aren’t good for kids.

“I feel like it restricts the breathing, especially for a young child. They are super active, you know. They’re going to be running around [and] the mask just makes them short of breath, and more tired,” said Ayers.

Parents know their children best, she said.

“It should be up to the parent. I mean, it’s their child, so they should decide whether their child should wear a mask or not,” she said.

Janssen said “a couple” board members resigned for personal reasons, but would not disclose additional details. He said there is no school board meeting planned before the first day of school on Aug. 20.

WMBD reached out to all board members but did not get any responses.

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