District 211 recommends rather than requires masks for unvaccinated students
During a contentious board meeting in which jeering parents were admonished several times, the board of trustees of Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 on Thursday night decided to recommend -- but not require -- that unvaccinated students wear face masks when classes resume next month.
The unanimous recommendation applies to all individuals 2 and older who are not fully vaccinated. Masks will be required for everyone on buses and other school-related transportation.
Also, students will be seated 3 feet apart in classrooms and other school areas whenever possible.
Those protocols are part of updated COVID-19 guidance from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention adopted last week by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Superintendent Lisa Small suggested District 211 follow the protocols, and the board agreed.
Under the current plan, District 211 will have a full in-person schedule and will not require proof of vaccination for the upcoming school year. Should the CDC update its guidance about proof of vaccination, masking requirements or in-person learning, the board will meet before making any changes to the district's plan.
The meeting Thursday was attended by a crowd of parents who repeatedly hollered and spoke out of turn, causing board President Anna Klimkowicz to ask for decorum multiple times and even threaten to clear the room.
"I do appreciate passion. I don't understand the outrage," board member Kimberly Cavill said.
Sixteen people spoke against having students wear masks, and five people spoke in favor of it.
"Students should not wear a mask at all," said Joanna Pozdal, a family practice physician in South Barrington who said she's been mask-less around patients who had COVID-19. "The reasoning is very simple: The students are in the low-risk range. They do not get sick as easily as older people."
Parent John Cushing pointed out many young people already have resumed life normally.
"Why are you going to mask kids now, when for the past summer they've been off without any masks, going off to all these big events without having any masks?" he said. "It doesn't make any sense to me."
A few speakers claimed that wearing masks is detrimental to people's health. Others said that the majority of studies show there are no detriments to wearing masks.
Parents on both sides of the issue exhorted the board not to make decisions based on politics.
"This isn't about left or right, this isn't about black or white, up or down," parent Lisa Reiswig said. "This is about our children. I don't want my child muzzled."
Parent Annette White said that if all students were required to wear masks, no one would be ostracized.
Suburban Cook County triggered an IDPH alert Thursday because of two consecutive days with less than 20% of ICU beds available in hospitals. DuPage and Kane counties also were red-flagged by IDPH for rising COVID-19 hospitalizations, nearly all involving unvaccinated patients. This as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus spreads around the state and country.