McHenry High School District 156

Return to School Plan

A back-to-school message from Dr. McTague

Dear Warrior Family,

I hope this message finds you well as we prepare for the opening of school next Monday. Please click on this link to see our Back to School 2021 web page of resources. We are so excited to have all of our students, teachers, and staff members back in our buildings after nearly two years of digital, hybrid and expanded in-person learning. We are also excited that our summer renovation projects have been completed at the Freshman Campus and the new Center for Science Technology and Industry is open and ready to serve our Upper Campus students in time for our historic campus transition.

Along with this message, I have included an amended final Return to School Plan for our families. As you are aware, guidance and requirements changed last week. The District originally had taken the position that mask-wearing would be recommended but not required to begin the school year based on public health guidance and recommendations. On Aug. 4, 2021, the governor issued an Executive Order requiring universal masking for K-12 schools. This Executive Order effectively supersedes the local authority of school boards to adopt mask-optional plans for the upcoming school year. Therefore, masks will be required for all students, staff, and visitors while inside District 156 school buildings. We are aligning with the Illinois State Board of Education, which along with the CDC and IDPH, continues to recognize “the fundamental importance of in-person learning for the well-being of students, families, and communities.”

We understand that some of our community members have different perspectives on mask wearing and we appreciate that. However, failure of the District to fully comply with the governor’s Executive Order may lead to “nonrecognition” of the District by the Illinois State Board of Education, which could put the District’s state funding in jeopardy. Perhaps even more immediate, failure to comply with ISBE and IHSA requirements could prevent the District from participating in IHSA sanctioned athletic competitions and activities, which have already started. Additionally, it could expose the District to potential legal liability which could come at a great cost to the District. As McHenry County moves to the "high" community transmission range, removing mitigation efforts as outlined by the CDC and MCDH becomes even more difficult. Our primary focus as we begin the school year is making sure all of our students are able to come back to full in-person instruction and fully participate in all of our amazing athletic programs and activities. If new state or public health guidance and requirements are issued, we will adjust accordingly.

Based on the updated guidance vaccinated students are still not required to quarantine if identified as a close contact. Unvaccinated students would still be required to quarantine if identified as a close contact with a COVID-positive individual. With universal masking in place, unvaccinated students are now eligible for reduced quarantine options outlined in the Return to School Plan including a new Test to Stay program. You will receive more information on the Shield Illinois testing and screening program later in the week. Participation in any testing or screening program is voluntary and requires parental consent.

I would ask that parents please access their Skyward Family Access Portal and electronically sign the one-time Self Certification Form indicating that they will not send students to school when the students are sick or experiencing COVID-like symptoms. Parents will no longer have to complete a daily self-certification form upon entry into the building. We are also requesting parents indicate their student vaccination status and upload their proof of vaccination. This will assist the building heath office and administration in their contract tracing efforts throughout the year and ensure vaccinated students are not quarantined if identified as a close contact. This will also help us determine and monitor our overall student vaccination rate as requested by public health officials. Our school vaccination rate will be used by the MCDH to determine local guidance and recommendations in the future.

MCHS Principal, Dr. Prickett, will continue to send out building specific return to school messages for both campuses and we will regularly update our Back to School 2021 web page. Please also take a moment and review our updated Return to School Plan. Thank you for your understanding as we continue to process the updated guidance from the state and work with our staff members and public health officials to ensure we are in compliance with all state and public health guidance and requirements while safely bringing our students back for full in-person instruction when we return to school next Monday.

We are so very excited for all of our students to return to our amazing new facilities at both campuses. The future is bright for District 156 as we transition to our Freshman and Upper Campus structure and finally become ONE - One School, One Community, and One Warrior Family.

We Are Warriors and We are One!

Take Good Care,

Ryan McTague, Ph.D.