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Springfield

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed 35 bills Friday, including measures impacting education, driving and public safety retirement.

Beginning Jan. 1, certain members of law enforcement can retire at the age 55 instead of 60.

Among the bills Pritzker signed Friday are measures that reduce the number of professional development hours for an educator license and allow a school district to waive the evaluation requirement of certain educators if they were rated “excellent” or “proficient” previously.

Another measure pertaining to schools prohibits districts from withholding a student’s grades, transcripts, or diploma because of an unpaid balance on school accounts.

Starting Jan. 1, a measure requires various state agencies to establish programs to receive reports from the public about possible self-harm, criminal acts or potential harm directed at school students, employees or schools.

Effective immediately is a measure that requires grocery stores or supermarkets to display both the regular price and discounted price of an item.

Several measures deal with driving. One measure starting Jan. 1, 2023, prohibits “street sideshows on any street or highway of the state.” A separate measure permits people with a suspended driver’s license due to failure to pay child support to obtain a school bus driver permit “under a new set of circumstances.”

Read more here.

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USN

U.S. News and World Report released its 2022 Best High School rankings this week, and five Chicago schools were ranked in the top 100.

The publication ranked nearly 18,000 public high schools by assessing six factors based on their state assessments and how well they prepare students for college.

Eleven Illinois high schools ranked in the top 300. They are:

  • Payton College Preparatory High School in Chicago is ranked number one in Illinois and number five nationally
  • Northside College Preparatory High School in Chicago is ranked number two in Illinois and number 31 nationally
  • Jones College Prep High School in Chicago is ranked number three in Illinois and number 51 nationally
  • Young Magnet High School in Chicago is ranked number four in Illinois and number 67 nationally
  • Lane Technical High School in Chicago is ranked number five in Illinois and number 84 nationally
  • Proviso Math and Science Academy in Forest Park is ranked number six in Illinois and number 161 nationally
  • Adlai E Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire is ranked number seven in Illinois and number 167 nationally
  • Vernon Hills High School in Vernon Hills is ranked number eight in Illinois and number 238 nationally
  • Hinsdale Central High School in Hinsdale is ranked number nine in Illinois and number 277 nationally
  • New Trier Township High School Winnetka is ranked number 10 in Illinois and number 285 nationally
  • Lake Forest High School in Lake Forest is ranked number 11 in Illinois and number 292 nationally

Barrington High School ranked number 25 in Illinois and 610 nationally. Dundee-Crown High School ranked number 192 in Illinois and 5,612 nationally. The complete ranking is here.

Watch the FOX 32 Chicago report here.

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SAT Performance

SAT math scores dropped nearly 15%, and reading scores dropped 9% from 2019 to 2021 among Illinois high school juniors. Low-income and minority students saw bigger losses.

Illinois high school juniors saw greater declines in their standardized test scores from 2019 to 2021 compared to other school years, with math scores dropping nearly 15% and reading scores dropping 9%.

This drop in proficiency is higher compared to recent years, according to data released in December 2021 by the Illinois State Board of Education. Students’ SAT reading scores had dropped an average of nearly 4% from 2017 to 2019 while SAT math proficiency scores actually increased by 1.5% between 2018 and 2019 after a nearly 6% drop in the previous school year.

National data shows school closures had the biggest impact on the passing rates of low-income and minority students. Illinois saw the same trend – academic achievement between socioeconomic and demographic groups diverges, with low-income and minority students faring worse.

Among low-income high school juniors in 2021, under 16% scored at proficiency level in reading and fewer than 13% were proficient in math. This represents a nearly 15% and 25% overall proficiency decline since 2019 in each subject. Comparatively, proficiency scores in reading and math for higher-income juniors dropped around 11% and 16%, respectively.

Read more here.

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No Mask

As of today, use of masks is no longer required indoors in most public places.  However, there are exceptions such as:

  • Metra trains
  • O’Hare and Midway airports
  • Hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and day care centers

Despite the change from the CDC, people traveling on public transit, such as buses and airplanes, will still be required to wear a mask until at least March 18, which is when the federal government’s current order is set to expire.

The city of Chicago and Cook County has halted masking and proof-of-vaccination rules. Local jurisdictions, private businesses and retailers may still institute their own requirements, so keep a mask handy.

For specific questions, the Illinois Department of Public Health website can be found here.

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300 Admin

Algonquin-based Community School District 300, and Cary School District 26 both made masking optional following special meetings this weekend in response to an appellate court decision last week that ruled COVID-19 mitigation policies in schools had expired and no longer applied.

The pair of districts join many others across McHenry County, who began reaffirming their masking policies that called for recommended, but not required, masking in schools.

Originally, after a Feb. 4 ruling from a Sangamon County court said Gov. JB Pritzker didn’t have the authority to issue the mask mandate, many districts in McHenry County opted to move to a recommended masking policy. However, Cary District 26 and District 300 said at the time that only those mentioned in the lawsuit would not have to wear masks, requiring everyone else to do so.

A little more than a week later, on Feb. 15, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, a legislative panel in Springfield, voted to suspend the newest version of COVID-19 mitigation, which included masks, for schools in Illinois after they were set to expire. The committee cited the pending litigation surrounding the rules as a reason why.

As a result, the appellate court Thursday said because those rules had expired, they could no longer be applied, allowing school districts across the state to issue their own decisions on masking and other protocols.

Read more here.  The news release from District 300 can be viewed here.

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JB Pissed

Earlier this week, a bipartisan legislative committee in Springfield suspended the renewal of the state’s emergency mask mandate in schools.

As a result of that action, the Illinois Fourth District Appeals Court ruled, “None of the rules found by the circuit court to be null and void are currently in effect…Accordingly, for the following reasons, we dismiss defendant’s appeal because the expiration of the emergency rules renders this appeal moot.”

The ruling posed late Thursday night is a setback for Governor Pritzker, who sought to keep the mask mandates in place inside schools despite his plan to loosen mask restrictions in the state come February 28.

The dismissal comes after a downstate judge ruled at the beginning of February in favor of a group of parents from across the state who sued over the mask requirement.

The governor then appealed that ruling, but in the meantime, a legislative committee made up of Republicans and Democrats voted Tuesday against extending the mask mandate in schools as the state waited for guidance from the appellate court.

More here.

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300 Admin

Classes were canceled Monday for schools in Algonquin-based School District 300 “to ensure a safe learning environment” following a court ruling against Illinois’ school mask and exclusion guidelines.

District 300, which serves over 23,000 students and is the sixth-largest district in Illinois, initially said on Sunday that masks would continue to be required in their schools on Monday.

Community Unit School District 300 Superintendent Susan Harkin sent a letter notifying parents Monday morning that all schools in the district would be closed on Monday.

“The district will be implementing an emergency day as a proactive measure to ensure a safe learning environment for our students and our staff,” Harkin said.

“This decision has been made due to the volume of messages we received late last night from parents expressing concerns regarding the district’s decision to continue enforcing requirements relating to masks and school exclusion for close contacts,” Harkin said.

Harkin said the district apologizes for the late notice and said the district would send more information Monday evening.

District 300 was one of many defendants named in a lawsuit brought on by parents and employees who argued against a number of COVID-19 safety measures in schools.

More here.

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D300

“Dear Parent and Guardians,

As students and staff return to school tomorrow, Monday, February 7, 2022, for in-person learning, please know that masks will continue to be required with the exception of students who have already been identified as having a medical exemption and the students named as parties in the pending legal complaint in Sangamon County that names our district as a defendant.

Late Friday afternoon, Judge Raylene Grischow issued a temporary restraining order in this pending litigation. Due to a separate ruling limiting the scope of the litigation, the order applies only to the parties to the lawsuit of which there are nineteen District 300 students named.  The temporary restraining order will be appealed and may be stayed, meaning that the order could be placed on hold while the appeal is decided. As a result, the legal effect of the temporary restraining order is uncertain over the next couple of weeks. The District anticipates that the appellate ruling will provide additional clarification and guidance on how to move forward with mitigation measures. We anticipate a final ruling from the appellate court by February 17, 2022.

Because of this uncertainty and significant confusion reflected in various reports regarding the temporary restraining order, we want to let the community know our clear expectations. District 300 will continue to follow and implement its safe return to school plan. Aside from the parties to the lawsuit, District 300 will continue to enforce requirements relating to masks and school exclusion for close contacts.  

In addition, please note that all students remain subject to the federal order requiring all passengers on school buses to wear masks. Lastly, District 300 will continue to follow procedures for the exclusion of all symptomatic individuals and will continue to engage in close contact tracing.

Until the appellate court issues its ruling, we remain focused with your help to keep our students calm and focused on learning. Our main priority has always been to ensure the health and safety of our students, staff members, parents, family members, and residents of our local communities. The recent court decision does not change that fact.

This is obviously a very complex situation that has caused confusion and upset. Rest assured, we will continue to monitor all of the various outcomes of the litigation and the appeal as the situation unfolds. We will provide updates with our families as they become available.

Sincerely,

Susan Harkin
Superintendent”

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220 Mask

District 220 parents and students rallied in downtown Barrington Saturday after Friday’s announcement of a temporary halt to mask mandates.

Elgin Area School District U-46 said Saturday that its superintendent, administrators and legal counsel are in the process of reviewing the judge’s decision.

Naperville District 203 and Wheaton Warrenville District 200 also said they are consulting with legal counsel about the ruling and haven’t decided whether COVID-19 policies will be updated yet.

Superintendent Lori Bein announced District 25 elementary schools will no longer require masks, but instead “highly recommend” mask-wearing. Masks will still be required on school transportation.

Similarly, Superintendent David Schuler announced that Northwest Suburban District 214 will no longer require masks in school buildings but continue to require masking on transportation due to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s federal requirement. People who have been exposed to COVID-19 don’t have to quarantine and unvaccinated staff members no longer have to test weekly.

Read more here.

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BHS

A downstate judge temporarily halted mask mandates as part of a suit against COVID-19 mitigations in schools.

A downstate judge Friday evening put a temporary halt to mask mandates in nearly 170 school districts, including Chicago Public Schools. Those districts were named in a lawsuit that takes aim at the state’s COVID-19 mitigation measures and now won’t be required to wear masks.

Anticipating the ruling, Chicago Public Schools last week said it would fight to preserve the mask mandate. It said it would “strongly encourage” all students and staff to continue wearing masks. The state said it would seek an immediate appeal.

In her ruling, Sangamon County Judge Raylene Grischow temporarily blocked schools from requiring masks and regular COVID testing for staff who are unvaccinated. Also, students and staff who are deemed close contact of someone infected with COVID-19 will no longer be barred from entering the building without due process.

In a more sweeping move, the judge deemed the governor’s emergency rules related to masking, vaccinations, testing and quarantining for all school districts “null and void.” But in a footnote, the judge said any district not named in the lawsuit may “govern themselves accordingly.” The implication is that it’s up to those school districts to decide whether to mandate COVID mitigations.

The judge denied class action status for the case. Only districts named in this lawsuit are under the restraining order.

The temporary order is one step as the judge moves toward issuing a final ruling. Grischow expressed deep skepticism in her ruling Friday about the legality of the state’s emergency COVID-19 school mandates.

“The plaintiffs have due process rights under the law which provide them a meaningful opportunity to object to any such mitigations being levied against them and it is these due process rights which are being continually violated,” Grischow wrote.

The judge agreed with the arguments that the governor had overstepped authority granted to him by the Legislature by delegating authority to the State Board of Education and local school districts as well as the idea that students and teachers were being required to mask, test and quarantine without due process rights.

Read more here.

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