Dear District Harmony-Emge SD 175,
Yesterday, February 15, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) voted to reject a reintroduction of emergency rules for COVID-19 protocols in schools that includes masking, testing, and exclusion from school. This vote was not connected to the Illinois Appellate Court process, which District 175 is still waiting to hear a ruling from and could potentially alter our plans once again.
In working with our district’s legal counsel, the impact of yesterday’s vote means that due to the emergency rules expiring, schools can only require employee vaccinations/testing, student and employee masking, and exclusion of students and employees from school if there is a court order or an order from the local health department.
What does this mean? Effective immediately, Harmony 175 will recommend and encourage masks for all students and staff in our schools, but can not mandate it. Students who are currently excluded as close contacts may return to school today.
Please note that federal law still requires masks on buses. Yesterday’s vote does not change this, and so students who ride buses will still be required to wear masks.
While the District recommends masks, we remain determined to provide a safe environment for students and staff. Please know that:
As early as next week, KN95 masks will be made available to any staff member who wishes to have one. We will also have KN95 masks available for students that can be picked up in the school office.
Recommend any symptomatic students and staff to remain at home.
The District completely overhauled and updated our HVAC system nearly two years ago to continually circulate and filter our building/classroom air.
Daily COVID cleaning protocols still remain in effect.
We understand that this is a shift in our plan that has been in place for the better part of two school years and that everyone will have different perspectives on this issue. Something that has given me great pride is the respect and civility our district has shown throughout these strange times. I can not thank you enough for that. By the end of this week, you will also be receiving a survey to get a better understanding of your viewpoint in regards to masking. This information will potentially be needed for our upcoming Feb. 28 board meeting.
I would encourage all of our families to have a conversation with their child about continuing to respect others, including the way in which we each approach COVID. In the end, we all want the same thing – to provide in-person learning and opportunities for our children to reach their fullest potential within a safe and caring environment here at school.
Thank you for your continued patience, understanding, and support as we educate our children within the Harmony 175 school community.
Dr. Dave Deets, Superintendent