District 303 parents ask school board members to reconsider decision to make masks optional
A group of parents addressed St. Charles school board members Thursday and asked them to reconsider their decision to make masks optional in the upcoming school year.
As the parent of two St. Charles Unit District 303 elementary school students who are not yet eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, Scott Norris said he was disappointed by the school board's decision Monday not to require masks for the upcoming school year.
He is urging the school board to follow the lead of Elgin Area School District U-46 and require masks for elementary school students.
"It's something in the middle," Norris said during a special board meeting. "I think it appeases both sides."
As part of U-46's COVID-19 plan, elementary school students will be required to wear masks until the district begins its COVID screening and collection of school-by-school data.
"If COVID case data in school demonstrates no transmission, and community cases are low, we can then move to masks being strongly encouraged," the plan states.
District 303 students are set to go back to school on Aug. 11. The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending all students, teachers and staff wear masks inside schools when classes resume to protect unvaccinated children from COVID-19 and reduce transmissions. Children age 11 and younger are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.
The district's plan recommends students and staff members who are not fully vaccinated should wear masks while inside. But masks will not be mandated.
"Under the current CDC/IDPH/ISBE guidelines, masking is no longer mandated," the district's plan states.
Masks will not be required while District 303 students and staff members are outside when physical distancing can be maintained. All staff must wear a mask unless they provide proof of vaccination or are enrolled in the district's screening testing program.
The district will be contracting with the University of Illinois SHIELD to conduct weekly screening tests. The test is a PCR saliva test and unvaccinated students will have an option to participate in screening testing. The majority of board members Thursday approved a contract for the testing program, which comes at no cost to the district.
But masks will still be required on school buses.
"The CDC order currently in effect for public transportation applies to all district vehicles, including school buses -- masks are required," the plan states.
Norris was one of several parents voicing their disappointment in the school board's decision to make masks optional. Also expressing his disappointment was parent Paul Woods.
"There was no explanation to the parents about why this board is choosing to disregard the guidance that was so successful in the last year," he told board members. "I want the board to explain how this decision was made and why."
Jill Sullivan, who has two children that attend Wild Rose Elementary School, also voiced her concerns.
"With the delta variant spreading, I am now worried COVID cases will increase in our schools, and I do not want my children to become sick from COVID when we are so close to having the vaccine available for them," she told board members.
She proposed the school district establish a mask-only class in at least one class in each grade level at all the district's elementary schools.
"Parents would be able to contact the principal at their school to volunteer their children for this class," Sullivan said. "This solution would put children and parents at ease. It would reduce the anxiety of children knowing they will be in a safe environment with like-minded classmates."