St. Anne Grade School

St. Anne Grade School students celebrated the end of an unusual school year last year with “Chalking Up Our Gratitude” which celebrated students’ resilience and positivity during the pandemic. Masks were required last year but the school board is defying the state mandate on mask this year for the elementary school. It’s now reversed course after being put on probation by the state.

ST. ANNE — St. Anne Grade School District 256 will be requiring masks starting today after being placed on probation for going against Gov. JB Pritzker’s executive order mandating masks in schools.

Jed Beaupre, school board president, said the board voted at a special meeting Monday to reverse course on the school’s mask-optional policy.

Just like the initial 5-2 vote to defy the mandate, board members were split on this decision as well.

The change on Monday passed 3-1, while two members abstained.

In an Aug. 25 letter from the Illinois State Board of Education, the school district was told it was being placed on probation and given 60 days to come into compliance. The letter also gave a timeline for the superintendent to have a video or phone conference with ISBE.

After receiving the letter, the district was notified by the Illinois Elementary School Association stating that participation in fall extracurricular activities would not be affected, as the organization was not requiring masks, Beaupre said.

However, the IESA reached out a few days later and communicated the opposite — any schools on probation would have to be in compliance by early September for students to be able to participate in state events/postseason games.

“After hearing that, I sent a very discouraging email to the IESA Board of Directors explaining my disgust in their change in their stance,” Beaupre said.

Monday evening, athletic directors were notified by the IESA that they were being given a 15-day extension and would have until around mid-September to comply with ISBE, he said.

Even with the extension, the timeline does not match up with the 60-day timeline given by ISBE.

Beaupre said the possibility of students not being able to compete in postseason games was a main factor for the board in deciding to comply with the governor’s mask mandate.

“Like I said at our first special board meeting, kids lose either way,” he said. “Unfortunately, they are holding our kids hostage.”

Before the district can be removed from the probation list, the superintendent must submit a plan of action to ISBE and await its response.

Board votes in favor of shifting to comply with the mandate were from Beaupre, Christopher Tolly and Barbara Emerson. The vote against it came from Tim Wednt.

Louie Farber and Lydia Leveque voted “present,” meaning they abstained.

Beaupre said the board would likely bring the issue up again at its next regular board meeting scheduled for Sept. 27 and may take another vote; he expects and encourages parents on both sides of the issue to attend the meeting and share their views.

“This is not over,” he said.

Reporter

Stephanie Markham joined the Daily Journal in February 2020 as the education reporter. She focuses on school boards as well as happenings and trends in local schools. She earned her B.A. in journalism from Eastern Illinois University.