District 64 to stick with mask mandate despite opposition on board and from public

After hours of comments from audience members and board debate, the Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 board on Monday night rejected a move to make protective masks optional for students and employees.

The proposal was prompted by a downstate judge's decision Friday to issue restraining order against a statewide mask requirement for schools during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

The effort, which would have resulted in masks' being recommended but not mandated, failed because the vote ended in a 3-3 tie.

Board members Gareth Kennedy, Tom Sotos and Phyllis Lubinski favored changing the district's mandatory mask policy, while Denise Pearl, Carol Sales and Nicole Woitowich voted to keep the policy in place. Carol Little was absent.

Seventy-one community members shared their opinions on the controversial issue during the meeting at Emerson Middle School in Niles, a district spokesman said. Additionally, more than 100 people sent emails about the matter.

Some suburban districts have eased mask rules since the judge's order. Many others haven't.

Student protests and community demonstrations have occurred in some districts this week because of the controversy.

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