'Necessary course adjustment' will require masks for all in Libertyville District 70 schools

  • Matt Barbini

    Matt Barbini

  • Parents across the suburbs have been appearing before school boards in recent weeks urging districts to require students wear masks or make them optional.

    Parents across the suburbs have been appearing before school boards in recent weeks urging districts to require students wear masks or make them optional. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/3/2021 7:35 PM

Libertyville Elementary District 70 again has reversed course and will require all students, teachers, staff members and visitors to wear masks when indoors at all schools and district offices.

In a letter to parents Tuesday afternoon, Superintendent Matt Barbini cited several reasons for the decision, including revised CDC guidance and the opinion of the district's liability carrier that masking was the only advisable strategy.

 

"This is a necessary course adjustment," Barbini informed parents.

Endorsements by the Illinois State Board of Education and Illinois Department of Public Health of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation for mask wearing regardless of vaccination status, as well as the highly contagious nature of the delta variant, contributed to the decision, according to Barbini.

"My first priority as your superintendent is to create and maintain a safe learning environment at our schools," he told parents in the letter.

"I believe that requiring masks until such time as the CDC and other regulatory agencies (IDPH and ISBE) provides guidance to the contrary is doing just that."

The directive comes less than two weeks after Barbini said masks would be strongly encouraged but not required for unvaccinated students and staffers when school starts Aug. 19.

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That stance was a turnaround from two weeks earlier when he said students in the district's four elementary schools, as well as unvaccinated students and staff at Highland Middle School, would be required to wear masks indoors.

Barbini said he changed his mind after hearing "very strong opinions" regarding masking in schools and a "considerable amount of reflection and soul searching."

At the time, he said enforcing masking rules for unvaccinated students and staff members would be very difficult and could lead to "open conflict" from some parents who disagreed.

Barbini was unavailable Tuesday evening to discuss whether that is a continuing concern.

Other factors Barbini cited for the latest decision were:

• The majority of people hospitalized are unvaccinated.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• Increases in COVID rates in Libertyville ZIP code 60048 and Lake County.

• Children can get ill from COVID, some severely.

• The majority of District 70 students don't qualify to be vaccinated.

• Conversations with legal counsel on Sunday indicating the most conservative action is to require masks be worn indoors regardless of vaccination status.

• A statement from the district's liability carrier July 28 saying the latest CDC guidance makes required masking for all "the only advisable strategy."

On Tuesday, he reminded parents of the expectation to conduct themselves with civility and respect on school property.

"Please do not let your personal views on masking and other necessary mitigation measures negatively impact the school experience for all of our children and the dedicated staff who serve them," he wrote.

The policy will be discussed during a special school board meeting Monday.

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