Payson School Board votes to recommend masks for unvaccinated people, but they won’t be required

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PAYSON, Ill. — Approximately 80 people were in attendance for Thursday’s meeting of the Payson Community Unit School District 1 School Board, which voted to highly recommend masks in most settings for unvaccinated individuals — but they won’t be required.

A document titled “Payson CUSD #1 Opening Plan” said layered mitigations such as physical distancing of at least three feet, the use of masks in certain settings and increased sanitization in common areas will continue. However, masks won’t be required outdoors, and they won’t be required in most settings for vaccinated individuals. 

Masks are required for everybody on buses and in close settings, such as assemblies and other areas where students congregate. Classrooms are not considered areas where students congregate. The school district will work with the Adams County Health Department to determine the areas where students congregate.

School Board president Lisa Schwartz said a group of Payson parents, led by Kyle Beckman, spoke with the Board during the first 30 minutes of Thursday’s meeting. Eight other Payson parents also spoke, as did Steve Lucie, a representative of We Stand for Students, a local group concerned about parent choice regarding mask options, quarantines resulting in remote learning, vaccine options, athletics and other school-sponsored activities.

“I’m all for that,” said Schwartz, a teacher for the Quincy School District for 19 years and for three years with the Learning Technology Center of Illinois. “As an educator, I love it when people ask questions and want to know what’s going on.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health issued a press release last week, stating that it is fully adopting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated guidance for COVID-19 prevention in K-12 schools. The updated school guidance aligns with guidance for fully vaccinated people, which allows activities to resume for fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask except where required by federal, state, and local rules and regulations.

It gave the School Board in Payson a blueprint to follow.

“We made phone calls. We wrote letters to our representatives,” Schwartz said. “The main thing for us was to try to gain local control and to work with our health department and other school districts to see what’s happening in our region. We just wanted local control. But it doesn’t mean our work is done. During this pandemic, things are constantly changing. We still have to try to keep up with the latest news and communication.

“We’re glad so many people reached out to us, and we’re glad that people attended (Thursday’s meeting). We hope that from all of this, we’ll get more people to run for the School Board and other elections as well. We hope this makes more people knowledgeable of what the board does, and we’ll get more people being a part of our process here.” 

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