Dear students, families, and employees of East Moline School District 37:
As many of you know, the last two weeks have had a number of developments regarding the statewide COVID-19 mitigation mandates applicable to Illinois schools. We appreciate your patience and continued cooperation as we move forward with this rapidly changing situation.
On February 4, 2022, a Sangamon County judge entered a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) and ruled that Governor Pritzker’s Executive Orders 2021-18, 2021-24, and 2021-25, were invalid. These orders require the use of masks for students and teachers, the weekly testing of personnel who are not vaccinated against COVID-19, and the exclusion of asymptomatic “close contacts” to a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19. This TRO was issued by Judge Raylene Grischow of the Circuit Court for the Seventh Judicial Circuit in a group of cases that did not directly involve District 37. The judge had earlier denied a motion to certify these cases as a class action lawsuit that would have applied to all school districts in Illinois. Consequently, we have continued to enforce these mandates over the last two weeks. The lllinois Attorney General, who represents Governor Pritzker and the state agencies filed an expedited appeal of the TRO.
While that appeal was pending, the IDPH and ISBE Emergency Rules related to the Governor’s Executive Orders expired. IDPH resubmitted their rules for extension, and the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (“JCAR”) voted against the IDPH Emergency Rules due to the pending TRO litigation. JCAR is a bipartisan legislative oversight committee created by the General Assembly to monitor and supervise agency rulemaking. Although this action affected the IDPH Emergency Rules, it did not have any effect on the Executive Orders.
Late in the evening on Thursday, February 17, 2022, a three-judge panel of the Fourth District Appellate Court in Springfield entered an order dismissing the Attorney General’s appeal of the TRO. More specifically, the Appellate Court held that the expiration of the Emergency Rules and JCAR’s objection to and suspension of IDPH’s renewal of them rendered the appeal “moot,” or “no longer an actual controversy.” Although all three judges of the panel agreed with the decision that the Emergency Rules issue was moot, one of the judges dissented in part and stated that the Executive Orders themselves were not moot. The two-judge majority of the panel disagreed.
At the present time, it appears that both the Emergency Rules and Governor Pritzker’s Executive Orders regarding facial masking and other COVID-19 mitigation measures are not in effect. Consequently, we will suspend exclusionary enforcement of the masking, close contacts, and unvaccinated staff testing mandates unless there are further developments or guidance.
We will continue to monitor COVID-19 and take appropriate actions to reduce or prevent its spread in schools, including social distancing and other measures not addressed by the TRO. We recommend that members of our school community continue to follow the established COVID-19 mitigation protocols already in place. We will encourage, but not require, students and staff in our schools to wear face masks. We will also continue to contact trace and notify close contact cases and encourage, but not require, those individuals to self-isolate unless they develop symptoms. We will handle all positive or probable COVID-19 cases individually in consultation with the Rock Island County Health Department.
Masking on school buses will continue to be required under a federal mandate that has not been affected by these recent developments. It is possible that the TRO litigation will continue in the trial court or in further appeals, or that other litigation may take place. We will monitor those cases and any further guidance or requirements that may come from the Governor or state agencies, and our policies and procedures may change going forward. As always, the health and safety of our students and employees is the highest priority of the East Moline School District.
Dr. Kristin Humphries, Superintendent