Retain masking and "Test to Stay" protocol in District 67 & 115

Retain masking and "Test to Stay" protocol in District 67 & 115

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Elliot Hirsch started this petition to Lake Forest Board of Education for District 67 & 115

Superintendent Dr. Matthew Montgomery, on December 6, 2021, put forward a request to Illinois' Governor Pritzker, asking that D67 and D115 cease the current "Test to Stay" program and replace it with a pilot program that removes the universal mask mandate called "Mask to Stay" - in which our districts would be "inaugural participants" (i.e. the first districts).

---> We ask that you sign this petition to indicate that now (or in the near-term) is NOT the time to modify state and federally sanctioned mitigation efforts, and that you DO NOT SUPPORT the proposed changes to our existing masking and Test to Stay protocols.

The current "Test to Stay" program is supported by the Governor, ISBE (Illinois State Board of Education), IDPH (Illinois Department of Public Health), and the CDC.  Under "Test to Stay", an unvaccinated student, teacher, or staff member who is exposed to COVID-19 is allowed to stay in-school, in-person if 1) both the COVID-19 positive individual and the close contact were properly masked at the time of exposure, and 2) the close contact or their parents agree to let the individual be tested on the first, third, fifth and seventh day after their exposure.  These tests are provided at no cost by the State of Illinois as part of the program.  Fully vaccinated & properly masked students, teachers, and staff are not considered close contacts and thereby are not subject to Test to Stay protocols, and may remain in school, in person, as usual.

The proposed "Mask to Stay" pilot program that Dr. Montgomery wishes to adopt would make the following changes:

  • It would ELIMINATE the current universal mask mandate issued by Gov. Pritzker for students, teachers, and staff, and change the district policy to "masks optional".  This has been confirmed via direct communication with the Superintendent, as the wording of the proposal is ambiguous.
  • It would allow students, teachers, and staff who were in close contact with a COVID-positive individual at school - regardless of vaccination or masking status - to remain in school, without the need for testing.  In place of testing, the potentially exposed individuals would be required to wear a mask for a period of time, and only if visible symptoms were to arise would they need to temporarily isolate and be tested.

It has been proven that COVID-19 is transmitted via airborne particles by both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals, and that masks on all parties is vital to prevent infection - lowering risk to a nominal level.  The newly proposed "Mask to Stay" program, by removing masks and testing requirements, against the guidance of the CDC, ISBE (Illinois State Board of Education), the IDPH (Illinois Department of Public Health), and Gov. Pritzker, places students, teachers, and staff in an unnecessarily risky - and entirely avoidable - situation as a result.  The existing "Test to Stay" program has proven successful across Illinois and nationally, and there is no demonstrable reason to change it at this time.

Further, the "Test to Stay" program is a strong incentive for individuals (students, teachers, & staff) to get vaccinated, as it allows those fully vaccinated to avoid the "Test to Stay" protocols entirely.  This incentive is extremely important in our fight against the pandemic, and is a key mechanism purpose-built into the program.

By signing this petition you register your support for keeping the current "Test to Stay" program in place, unchanged, in order to best protect our students, teachers, school staff, community, and the most vulnerable among us.

A copy of Dr. Montgomery's announcement regarding his proposed changes has been included below for reference, and you can find a direct link to the text here.

Via Dr. Montgomery:


December 6, 2021

To Our District 67 and District 115 School Communities:

This afternoon, I sent the letter below to Governor J.B. Pritzker. In this message, I suggest our Districts' possible participation in a pilot program that would offer alternatives to quarantining students and school staff who are deemed close contacts due COVID-19 exposure.

I will continue to keep you updated.

Matthew L. Montgomery, Ph.D.

December 6, 2021

The Honorable J.B. Pritzker
Governor of Illinois
207 State House
Springfield, IL 62706

Dear Governor Pritzker:

In follow up to recent conversations with Illinois State Senator Julie Morrison and Illinois State Representative Bob Morgan, I had the pleasure last week of taking part in a one-on-one virtual meeting with the Honorable Martin Torres, Illinois Deputy Governor for Education. The Deputy Governor was generous with his time and perspective.

As Superintendent of Schools for Lake Forest School Districts 67 and 115, I requested these conversations in an effort to better understand how and when Illinois State leadership plans to ease current COVID-19 risk mitigation requirements in our schools and also to volunteer my time and expertise to lead our state forward with a focus on students and high-quality classroom learning. 

Deputy Governor Torres spoke to the complexity of the current phase of our fight against COVID-19, including the new variant, but noted that he did not view the existing mitigation model as one that could remain “in perpetuity.” With this in mind, as we look toward 2022, our school districts would like to begin work with the state to lead and model a modified mitigation approach for Illinois schools. 

Our goal remains to keep students and staff healthy and in school for in-person learning. We are fortunate to have a record of no in-school transmission of the virus in our buildings. We offer voluntary COVID-19 testing to all students and staff and, as part of our mitigation strategies, we have actively offered and promoted vaccination opportunities for adults, teens, and our 5-11-year-old population. Currently, approximately 73.5% of eligible Lake County residents, 5 years of age and up, have received at least one dose of the vaccine; 65.5% are fully vaccinated.

We understand the need for a layered mitigation strategy. At the same time, it has become increasingly clear that the current quarantine requirements for students and staff are excessive and disruptive to the learning environment. They have the unintended consequence of reducing in-school learning and can be an added social-emotional strain on students, parents, guardians, teachers, staff, and our local health department. It is our belief that our school districts, and others in Illinois, can implement an alternative mitigation strategy that not only protects against the spread of COVID-19 but also keeps our students in school and supported.

While ISBE and IDPH currently allow close contacts to remain in school following exposure to COVID-19 through a Test to Stay protocol, we note that some states are exploring a “Mask to Stay/Test to Play” in-school alternative to quarantining students and school staff who are deemed close contacts. In this model, masking is only required when a student or staff member are deemed close contacts and only symptomatic individuals would be directed to quarantine. 

In an effort to move school communities in our state forward and begin to bridge the polarity that currently exists around current mitigation strategies, D67 and D115 would consider serving as an inaugural participants in an Illinois “Mask to Stay/Test to Play” program, with a goal of answering the following questions, as presented in the original study:
How can a Mask to Stay/Test to Play protocol assist school districts in identifying healthy students (students who do not have COVID-19) who have been deemed school-based direct contacts?
How can a Mask to Stay/Test to Play program help us learn more about the rate of transmission of COVID-19 in school settings?
How does the data compare between school districts who have some level of mask mandate versus districts that have no mask mandate?
When students follow the Mask to Stay/Test to Play protocol, will we be able to safely protect in-person learning for healthy students? 
How can the Mask to Stay/Test to Play program help inform our next steps as we consider the next iteration of quarantine guidelines for the state of Illinois?  

We are eager to partner with other Illinois school districts in testing a similar approach and I would be pleased to help solicit those participants. Together, by reducing quarantines, we can keep more students in school - happy, healthy, and learning.

I look forward to your feedback and to working with you, Deputy Governor for Education Torres, and my fellow Illinois school superintendents. I am confident we can innovate and evolve our current risk mitigation strategies with a continued focus on health, as well as the academic and social-emotional well-being of our students and staff.


Matthew L. Montgomery, Ph.D.

Cc: The Honorable Martin Torres, Illinois Deputy Governor for Education 
The Honorable Bob Morgan, Illinois State Representative 
The Honorable Julie Morrison, Illinois State Senator
Dr. Carmen Ayala, Illinois State Superintendent of Education
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Illinois Department of Public Health Director  

0 have signed. Let’s get to 200!
At 200 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!