CUSD board authorizes litigation against ISBE


CLINTON — At the Jan 18 meeting of the Clinton board of education, the board authorized a resolution affirming its intent to adopt and enforce its own return-to-school plan which provides for Covid-19 mitigation measures as deemed appropriate for the district. It also authorizes the initiation of "litigation against the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and state superintendent of education to prevent the loss or threat of loss of recognition status of the school district."

Superintendent Curt Nettles read the resolution at the meeting.

"While the state mandates are designed to impede the spread of Covid-19, the resolution states the mitigation measures for public schools have been generally uniform across the state and do not contemplate local population density or local conditions pertaining to the prevalence of the virus in the community and school environment," read Nettles.

The resolution continued, stating the mitigation measures have been "onerous on students, staff and faculty and have led to a number of negative impacts" while offering only limited success in containing the spread of the virus. 

Nettles said the state made clear that its mitigations were "largely recommendations" which could be adopted or removed by school districts based on local conditions. 

With that information, last fall the Clinton school board adopted a return-to-school plan that recommended masks but did not require them. The state later announced emergency regulations with other mitigation measures that could not be removed by local school districts. 

The state superintendent and ISBE have "threatened loss of recognition status against the school districts that do not implement the mitigation measures," said Nettles.

The resolution also states that Clinton school would return to its own mitigation plan if it were not for the "threats to place the school district on probation and remove recognition statuses."

Nettles said three other school districts were contemplating passing the same resolution but did not identify those districts.

"Passing the resolution shows your intent," said Nettles. "Nothing happens until a suit is actually filed."

"CUSD 15 would continue to follow the mandate until such time as this may be resolved," he said. "This is not saying that we would be making masking optional or disregard protocols outlined in guidance at this point in time."

"The hope is to be able to follow the plan we originally passed in July, which gives us the flexibility to move in and out of the mitigations as the needs arise."

The law firm of Miller, Hall & Triggs, LLC, will initiate the litigation for the district.

While the district seeks local control of the Covid-19 mitigation plans, "We do have sick people. I want everyone to understand that," Nettles said.

"By all measures and all means we're keeping the schools open. It is an issue right now with staffing."

Nettles said the district is faced with sick teachers or teachers with sick children as well as a shortage of substitute teachers, but added the district is doing the best it can and covering the classes with internal staff.

"Teachers have stepped up," he said, sacrificing their free periods to help in other classrooms. 

"We're doing the best we can. We want to keep the doors open."

In other business, the board:

  • Learned the property across from the high school that includes the district's alternative education program, Clinton Academy, is up for sale. The district is looking into possibilities of what it may need to do. "We don't relish the idea of trying to find a different home for that group of students," said Nettles.
  • Approved the employment of Joe McKinzey as a custodian.
  • Approved the appointment of Ron Bass as assistant boys' track coach for the 2021-22 school year.