Officials want local control over opening schools


On July 7, a group of 10 superintendents from throughout the state launched a campaign asking for their peer superintendents and school boards to unite in the call for immediate guidance to open schools or for local control to be given back to the locally elected school boards by the Governor, Illinois State Board of Education, and Illinois Department of Public Health.

The email campaign is designed to engage the more than 850 superintendents in the state of Illinois and it is designed to acknowledge the work that has been done throughout the Pandemic to ensure learning continued in Illinois schools.

PJ Caposey, superintendent of Meridian Community School District 223, is a member of the group launching the campaign.

“The other superintendents and I that started this effort felt as though we have had to sit around all summer waiting for direction from the state and we have received none,” he said. “Meanwhile, we continue to get questions, criticism, and sincere concern from our community. So, instead of sitting around and complaining, we thought we would attempt to do something proactive and meaningful to help initiate the conversation with the powers that be in Springfield. We are less than five weeks away from opening our doors – if direction is not going to be provided for us, then let us work together with our health department and find a safe, responsible, and healthy way to reopen schools. 

An excerpt from the email sent by the group:

There is no question that Governor Pritzker and Dr. Ngozi Ezike are to be commended for their leadership and guidance during the initial and secondary stages of the pandemic. However, each day we draw closer to the start of the school year. The lack of clear, coherent, or updated guidance from ISBE, IDPH and the Governor's office is frustrating and of great concern as we are about to welcome our students back for the 21-22 school year. 

It is our belief that, through our partnerships with local IDPH / County health departments and through our layered mitigation protocols, we are able to lead our local districts during the later stages of Phase 5 and the reopening of in person learning in the schools in August.  Together we led through the March 2020-June 2021 experiences and with Phase 5, vaccinations for all persons aged 12 years and older, and with low transmission rates, we feel the time is now for clarity with school opening plans.

The email included a proposed draft Board resolution to support their position. This resolution was clear in its position and was not asking for any superintendent or Board of Education to not follow guidance issued from the state. Instead, the resolution asked for the ability to make decisions at the local level given the absence of timely guidance provided throughout the last several months of the Pandemic.