Dist. 214 won't require students, staff to wear masks

  • Students at Wheeling High School and the five other high schools in District 214 won't have to wear masks when classes resume Aug. 11.

    Students at Wheeling High School and the five other high schools in District 214 won't have to wear masks when classes resume Aug. 11. Daily Herald file photo

 
Posted7/30/2021 5:30 AM

Teachers, staff, students and visitors in District 214 schools will not be required to wear masks.

However, the district is following updated guidance from the CDC by recommending masks regardless of vaccination status.

 

That was the recommendation announced by Superintendent David Schuler, based on advice from legal counsel, and approved by the school board Thursday night at a special meeting.

District recommendations may change according to the COVID-19 metrics in the area.

"It is important to note that I am not recommending required, universal mask-wearing by all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools," Schuler said. "I am recommending that we adopt the public health language from the CDC."

This week, the CDC added a recommendation of universal indoor masking for teachers, staff, students and school visitors, regardless of vaccination status.

"I believe at the high school level that is a very prudent and responsible approach to take," Schuler said.

During the meeting, public sentiment for the most part was against mandating mask wearing.

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"Gov. Pritzker just issued his 19th emergency proclamation, and yet Lollapalooza is happening right now," Arlington Heights resident Susan Johlie said, to a burst of applause. "One hundred thousand people. Are we really supposed to believe that there is a public health emergency? ...

"Let's leave the kids out of this, whatever is happening in this country. They don't deserve to be masked all day. They should not pay the price for fearful adults. They should not pay the price for at-risk adults."

However, Arlington Heights resident and educator Mary Cosenza Vicars asked the board to require masks for students and staff.

"I wear a mask, because this is what the CDC says we ought to do. In public places, we ought to wear a mask," she said.

"Folks, we're in a pandemic, and I'm not afraid so much for myself, but I don't want to give it to other people."

On Thursday, the board approved a return-to-school plan that will be communicated in a letter to all families next week.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The plan, which will go up on the district's website, includes block schedules for all schools, which, Schuler said, have fewer switches of classes, with less contact tracing and less chances of more students needing to be quarantined. It also provides students the opportunity to access more classes, he said.

The plan also includes expanded mental health support for students. That will involve both partnerships with outside organizations and hiring academic interventionists who can work with families.

Schuler said the district will also be providing tutors to students who struggled academically last year.

School board President Bill Dussling praised the plan, saying, "The real issue is those students that had problems last year."

The first day of school is Aug. 11.

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