SICKNESS REMINDER - 3/1/2022
Due to the recent changes in our COVID procedures, we'd like to push out a friendly reminder to our families.
If your child is home sick, please contact his/her school's office. It is NOT required to have your child tested, although it is available if you wish to do so. Please contact the office if you would like to arrange testing. Your child can return once symptoms improve. They must be fever, vomiting, and/or diarrhea free for 24 hours.
***UPDATE 2/28/2022** Due to recent CDC guidelines, masks are now optional on buses.
REQUIRED MASKING ON BUSES - 02/09/2022
While the Mercer County SD 404 has returned to the intent of our original Return to Learn Plan, including recommending masks be worn indoors especially when social distancing cannot be maintained, passengers and drivers must still wear a mask on buses or vans operated by public and private school systems.
This is a federal ruling and not subject to the Illinois courts. Students who continue to remain unmasked will lose bus privileges.
Please be considerate of our drivers and all district staff and students. Thank you.
COVID GUIDANCE UPDATE - 1/7/2022
Although the court decision issued Friday in Sangamon County, does not apply explicitly to the Mercer County SD or any of its students or employees, Mercer County SD 404 will return to the intent of our original Return to Learn Plan on a temporary basis pending further court review. This includes:
Recommending masks be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) especially when social distancing cannot be maintained.
Suspending testing of non-symptomatic individuals and the exclusion of non-symptomatic close contacts.
Please understand this situation is still evolving and changes are expected as early as this week that may include reverting to more restrictive mitigations.
The 2021 CDC Order that requires face masks be worn by all people while on public transportation is still in effect. Passengers and drivers must wear a mask on buses or vans operated by public or private school systems as the Friday court ruling has no effect on federal requirements.
COVID GUIDANCE UPDATE - 1/19/2022
ISBE and IDPH have published updated guidance for schools related to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. Their documents can be found on their websites. Here is the shortened version of what impacts your student(s) in school or sports. This information/guidance is only as accurate as what ISBE and IDPH has published and is subject to change at any time from either organization.
Positive Case - Vaccinated or Unvaccinated
The student is out of school for 5 days from either symptom onset or the positive test, if they are asymptomatic
The student can return to school after the 5 days as long as they are 24 hour fever free (without meds) and see symptom improvement - if not, they need to wait until that happens and then they can return
Close Contact - Vaccinated Up to Date - Up to Date means current on all vaccine needs, including boosters, as eligible (Contact happened In-School or Out-of-School)
Nothing they need to do, recommend testing on day 5 (not required)
Close Contact - Unvaccinated (or not Up to Date - not Boosted) - Contact happened Out-of-School
Quarantine at home for 5 days since the last contact, continue to wear a mask around others for the next 5 days
Recommend testing on Day 5 (or the morning they return to school)
If become symptomatic, test right away
If student is unable to stay away from positive family member, then their 5 days will not start until the positive family member is done with their 5 days (so the student will be out for 10 days)
Close Contact - Unvaccinated (or not Up to Date - not Boosted) - Contact happened In-School
Can take advantage of Test to Stay - test at least 2 times, with 2nd test on Day 5 - 7
If refuse to test, then quarantine at home for 5 days and recommend testing when they return
Test to Stay participants are not able to compete or perform during the testing period
Will be out for 5 days from symptom start, unless they return with a negative test
Unvaccinated close contacts from sports will either need to quarantine for 5 days or participate in Test to Stay
No competition or performances during the 5 days
Test to Stay is able to practice, but not compete/perform
All athletes are able to return to practice and competition/performances when they return from the 5 day exclusion period
NEW ISOLATION AND QUARANTINE GUIDANCE 1-6-22
ISBE/IDPH ISSUE EMERGENCY RULES AND UPDATED GUIDANCE DOCUMENTS - 9/22/2021
September 22, 2021
Within the last several days, ISBE and IDPH separately issued emergency rules on vaccination/testing requirements for school personnel and school exclusion, implementing recent Executive Orders issued by Governor Pritzker. ISBE and IDPH also updated the Joint Guidance, the FAQ, and other guidance documents. As we continue to digest all of the recently issued rules and documents, here is a summary with links to each document.
ISBE Emergency Rules – Vaccination and Testing of School Personnel
On September 17, 2021, ISBE issued emergency rules to implement Governor Pritzker’s Executive Order 2021-22 concerning vaccination and testing requirements for school personnel. Our article highlighting several important clarifications and new requirements in the ISBE emergency rules is available here.
Governor’s Executive Order 2021-24 – Exclusion of School Personnel and Students
On that same day, Governor Pritzker issued Executive Order 2021-24 on school exclusion for individuals with Confirmed and Probable COVID-19 cases, as well as those who are Close Contacts. The Executive Order requires all schools (public, non-public, and charter schools) to exclude students and school personnel who meet certain COVID-19-related criteria regardless of whether an isolation or quarantine order has been issued by a local health department. Schools must provide remote instruction to students during periods of school exclusion pursuant to the State Superintendent’s declaration. Our article discussing the Executive Order’s requirements is available here.
IDPH Emergency Rules – Exclusion of School Personnel and Students
Also on September 17, IDPH issued emergency rules implementing Executive Order 2021-24. The IDPH emergency rules reiterate the school exclusion requirements in the Executive Order and clarify that schools must conduct contact tracing to identify occurrences of COVID-19 and Close Contacts of COVID-19 cases in schools. The emergency rules also include important changes that appear to address potential gaps in rulemaking that have been the focus of recent litigation involving schools around the State. Notably, the emergency rules delete the definitions of “modified isolation” and “modified quarantine,” clarifying that exclusion from school is not considered isolation or quarantine. The emergency rules also state that “requiring vaccination, testing, or the wearing of masks, or excluding a Student or School Personnel consistent with this subsection shall not constitute isolation or quarantine under the [Department of Public Health] Act, 20 ILCS 2305/1.1 et seq., and may be done without a court order or order by a local health authority.”
IDPH Interim Guidance – Exclusion Protocols for School Personnel and Students
Additionally, IDPH issued Public Health Interim Guidance for Local Health Departments and Pre-K-12 Schools – COVID-19 Exclusion Protocols (September 21, 2021). The purpose of the document is to provide additional guidance for schools and local health departments for when students and school personnel must be excluded from school consistent with Executive Order 2021-24 and the Communicable Disease Code (77 Ill. Admin. Code 690.361 and 690.30(c)).
ISBE/IDPH Joint Guidance, FAQ, and Fact Sheet
ISBE and IDPH updated the Revised Public Health Guidance for Schools – Part 5 (September 21, 2021) (the “Joint Guidance”) and Frequently Asked Questions for Schools (September 21, 2021). Both documents contain important updates that align with Executive Orders 2021-22 and 2021-24 and the ISBE and IDPH emergency rules.
ISBE and IDPH also issued a helpful one-page fact sheet summarizing the requirements under Executive Order 2021-24 and the IDPH emergency rules on school exclusion.
We recommend schools closely review the Executive Orders, ISBE and IDPH emergency rules, and various ISBE/IDPH guidance documents and consult with legal counsel regarding implementation.
2021 - 2022 UPDATED HEALTH GUIDELINES
The following are the Symptoms of Covid and your child must be kept home if experiencing any of the symptoms and be tested for Covid before returning to school.
Fever (greater than 100.4)
New onset Moderate to severe headache
Shortness of breath
New loss of taste or smell
Fatigue from an unknown cause
Muscle aches from an unknown cause
Current Health guidelines for 2021 – 2022 School Year
If your child has any of the above symptoms they must be kept home and get a covid test before returning to school. (The test can be a rapid antigen test or a PCR test). They must also be symptom free for 24 hours before returning to school.
Siblings are able to come to school until the ill sibling’s covid test returns and if the child has a positive covid test all siblings must be sent home.
If you choose not to have your child tested for covid they and their siblings will be out of school for at least 10 days.
If the ill child test negative the siblings can return to school
If your child tests positive all siblings are out of school for 10 days, from the date of the ill child’s test. If any of the sibling’s experience even one symptom during the 10 days their quarantine extends to 14 days. If any of the siblings are vaccinated they do not have to quarantine, unless they become symptomatic.
If your child is vaccinated and they are exposed to covid they do not have to quarantine unless they themselves are showing symptoms
If your child comes to the nurse during school and is not feeling well, parent’s will be called and asked if you want your child tested for covid using the rapid antigen nasal swab. If they test negative they may be sent home depending on their symptoms but their siblings can remain at school. If they are positive all siblings will be sent home except for those who are vaccinated. If you do not want your child tested, they will have to be out of school for 10 days.
If your child is identified as a close contact:
As long as everyone is wearing a mask, we now have, Test to Stay for close contacts at school that includes testing those students on days 1,3,5,7 from exposure. If any of the students or staff are unmasked the test to stay cannot be used. This will allow them to remain in school and sports as long as they remain testing negative. If you choose not to have your child tested they will be out of school at least 10 days.
Test to Stay does not include household members or if you are a close contact outside of the school setting, (this includes lunch).
If your child is vaccinated they will not have to quarantine unless they themselves become symptomatic, but it is recommended that they be tested one time between day 3-5 of exposure.
Close contacts are identified within 3 feet in the classroom and 6 feet on the school bus and at lunch.
UPDATED RETURN TO SCHOOL PLAN - AUGUST 13, 2021
August 13, 2021
Dear Mercer County School District Students, Staff, and Families,
In July we put out a plan consistent with the intention of the CDC, IDPH, and ISBE guidance where local positivity rates were taken into consideration, local capacity to mitigate was taken into consideration, and the lessons learned from a district that was in-person virtually all year in 2020-21. That plan was developed collaboratively with our association, our administration, and our Board of Education as a representative group of our community.
The most common question we received related to masking. At that time masking was recommended for unvaccinated individuals, it was not required except on school buses, as it was during the 2020-2021 school year. School districts had been given greater latitude to make decisions based on local conditions. Given those parameters and the current conditions, Mercer County Schools chose to make masks optional. However, on August 4, 2021 Executive Order 2021-18 changed all that. While there is debate about the authority of the Governor, IDPH, and ISBE to enforce the order or the consequences outlined in State Superintendent Ayala’s letter dated August 11, our Board and district have followed the advice of our legal counsel, the school board association, our insurance carrier and others to abide by the universal indoor masking requirement. I know many parents feel abandoned by this decision, but many others are relieved. Younger students and their parents have not had an opportunity to choose whether or not to be vaccinated. I sincerely hope that when that occurs, the order will be lifted and districts will once again chart their own course.
In spite of the mask mandate, other changes in guidance are much appreciated. The joint guidance no longer recommends fever and symptom screening. Students and staff who do not feel well should stay home and not return to school until they are symptom free for 24 hours. In addition, quarantine protocols have changed. With masking the distance is reduced to three feet and the Test to Stay protocol allows non-symptomatic students to remain in school as long as they test negative utilizing a rapid screen on days one, three, five and seven.
We will continue to closely monitor local conditions and the broader recommendations regarding coronavirus from the above organizations. Updates and changes are likely as we experienced last year, but our staff and students are resilient, and we are looking forward to starting the 2021-2022 school year under much more normal conditions. Thank you for your support in helping to keep our school community healthy and in-person.