WHEATON, Ill. — Chicago area school districts are struggling with the thorny question of mask mandates for elementary school students this fall.
The decisions are being made as health officials warn of a COVID-19 resurgence in unvaccinated populations – particularly as the Delta variant spreads.
Wednesday night, during a school board meeting in Barrington, both parents and students who attend the district’s eight elementary schools expressed their opinions on facial coverings.
Inside the crowded meeting held at Barrington High School, some parents wore masks, and some kids wore t-shirts reading ‘please don’t make me wear a mask.’
“This is obviously a very divisive issue – and we keep reminding ourselves that no one wants to be having these conversations. We all want the kids back in school without any kind of restrictions at all,” said Dr. Robert Hunt, superintendent of Barrington School District 220.
The district’s board of education is set to decide on a mask requirement for kindergarten through fifth-grade students, some of whom voiced their own concerns.
“I’m here to tell you I do not like masks,” said one child.
“It’s hard to breathe when you wear a mask, it just gets sweaty and yucky when I run around a lot,” said another.
Area school districts remain split on the question of masks. Recently Elgin area school District U-46 decided that masks would be mandated while St. Charles Unit District 303 made masks voluntary. Geneva Unit District 304 is still waiting to decide.
The Illinois Department of Public Health Guidance states, “schools should work with local public health officials to determine the prevention strategies needed in their area.” Schools should follow the CDC mask guidance, according to IDPH officials, which states, “masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated.”
“You do not have to guess, guesstimate, quibble, or stress. Just follow the guidelines,” said one adult during public comments.
“I simply ask that you continue the masking mandate as recommended by the CDC and the department of health,” shared another.
Specifically, in Barrington, Cook County’s Department of Public Health vaccine data shows that more than 90% of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated. Some parents and students say the masks are unnecessary.
“Kids have been mask-free all summer – including sports. There have been no deaths or hospitals to make them wear masks again is not following science or data, you are simply making decisions based on your own fears.”
While no decision was reached Wednesday night, last week the board decided to make masks voluntary for sixth graders through high school seniors when they return to school.