CARLYLE, Ill. — Illinois has placed more than 30 school districts on probation for failure to comply with the state mask mandate.
“Our state has been a position of disunity for a long time,” said Matt Renaud, Regional Superintendent of ROE #13.
Renaud believes the state put local school boards in a tricky spot when they mandated masks because in many cases it pitted board members against the people that elected them.
"We're in the midst of a very trying situation,” said Renaud. “We do see that, and our schools do recognize, that the metrics are rising. These are not people who are blind to what's going on."
Renaud could only watch as schools like Carlyle District #1, Patoka District #100, Red Bud District #132, South Central District #401, and Woodlawn District #209 were placed on probation by the state.
"This is the first time I've ever experienced this in my career,” said Renaud. “I've never seen these kinds of punitive measures handed out to schools to try and force some kind of conformity. I've not experienced that ever."
The Illinois State Board of Education has stated they will give districts multiple chances to comply with the mandate before pulling state funding and suspending them from IHSA sports.
"I believe that they're serious about the conformity to the mandate,” said Renaud.
Renaud believes this could be an opportunity to mend a long-standing divide downstate.
"I think it's important for the state to recognize that in the southern part of the state there's a true need for us to make good decisions for our people close to home,” said Renaud.
Districts placed on probation have 60 days to respond to the Illinois State Board of Education with a plan to come into compliance.
There is a lawsuit pending as to the legality of the mask mandate, but it's unclear when that case will be heard after a change of venue.