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More than 100 students quarantining after Illinois district starts with mask optional policy

The Carlyle School District that started the year by going against the governor's mandate has now reversed course after a spike in COVID cases

The Carlyle, Illinois school district that previously defied Governor J.B. Pritzker's mask mandate has reversed course after a spike in COVID cases and several students forced to quarantine.

From elementary through high school, Carlyle Community Unit School District No. 1 has fewer than 1,000 kids.

A school board member confirms to 5 On Your Side more than 150 are already in quarantine just two weeks into the year with close to 30 testing positive for COVID-19.

"I'm going to send him without a mask," said Tina Waner just before her son went back to school in the Carlyle district two weeks ago.

She wasn't alone in her opposition to Governor J.B. Pritzker's order that masks be worn in all Illinois schools.

"Parents, if you want things to change you're going to have to show up," she told 5 On Your Side then.

Parents did ‘show up’ and the school board responded by defying the governor's order -- opening school with no masks required. 

RELATED: Multiple local school districts placed on probation for failure to follow mask mandate

The state responded by putting Carlyle on probation and threatening to suspend the school from sports and pull funding.

Now Carlyle has changed its mind. In a meeting Monday the board voted to reverse course and comply with the governor's mask mandate.

Why exactly, the district won't say. But it could be COVID.

The Clinton County health department confirms Carlyle is dealing with a COVID-19 “outbreak” that is “worse than other schools in the county.”

And while the health department won't discuss the specific number of cases or the age of the patients, a school board member tells 5 On Your Side approximately 30 kids are infected and more than 15% of the district's entire student body is in quarantine.

“I know a lot of kids got quarantined, but I don't really think there's an outbreak,” said Lucas Rainey who graduated from Carlyle in 2020 and has younger siblings still in school there.
He says they are healthy and he doubts a lack of masks has anything to do with the spike in cases.

“Everyone in Clinton County has got their way of thinking. No one wants to wear a mask. No one wants to do anything,” Rainey said.

His girlfriend Jenna Martin goes to a nearby private school where they've had a mask mandate since school started.

“It helps not spread it I think because we haven't had a case,” she said. “I don't like wearing them, but I had I have to wear them to help, not spread it, then I will.”

The health department administrator says now that masks will be required in Carlyle schools he hopes they will be able to only test the close contacts of those who have contracted COVID and fewer kids will have to quarantine – something he says has worked in other districts.

Parents may not be done with their fight against masks. One, who says her son is healthy and in quarantine with no academic instruction from the school, says a group of parents has hired an attorney and plan to sue the district over the mask mandate required by the state.

5 On Your Side has reached out to the Carlyle CUSD superintendent and has yet to hear back.