If cases rise, Lake Zurich schools will require masks

  • Lake Zurich High School graduates wore masks to their commencement ceremony on May 22. The Lake Zurich Area Unit 95 board adopted mask rules at its meeting Thursday night. If the number of new COVID-19 cases rises above 50 people per 100,000, then all students will be required to wear masks indoors.

    Lake Zurich High School graduates wore masks to their commencement ceremony on May 22. The Lake Zurich Area Unit 95 board adopted mask rules at its meeting Thursday night. If the number of new COVID-19 cases rises above 50 people per 100,000, then all students will be required to wear masks indoors. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted7/30/2021 5:30 AM

Provided the number of people infected with COVID-19 remains at a low to moderate level, students at Lake Zurich Area Unit 95 schools will have some choice when it comes to wearing masks indoors under rules adopted by the school board Thursday at their meeting.

But if cases rise locally, the district would require every student to mask up regardless of vaccination status.

 

The plan calls for all students to receive in-classroom education but allows for families to apply for remote learning.

District mitigation efforts will vary in intensity based on the number of cases in the 60047 ZIP code. If the number of new COVID-19 cases is above 50 people per 100,000, then all students will be required to wear masks indoors.

There are currently 26.7 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000, which the plan identifies as a moderate level. Under moderate levels, masks are not required for fully vaccinated students. Grade 7 and older students who aren't vaccinated will be encouraged to wear masks, but younger students will be required to.

Regardless of the number of COVID-19 cases in the community, all students will be required to wear masks when on school buses and during large gatherings like assemblies where social distancing would not be possible.

Superintendent Kelley Gallt emphasized several times that, under the plan, the mitigation practices could change depending on guidance from organizations like the CDC.

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Families will have until Aug. 3 to declare whether they would like their student to do remote learning. Also, parents of students in fifth grade or younger will have until that date to apply for their child to be placed in a mask-optional classroom.

The school board voted unanimously to adopt the new rules and give Gallt the authority to change district policy based on changing circumstances.

Community members spoke for over an hour about whether students should be masked when classes resume in the fall.

The first parent to speak was Dr. Adam S. Cohen-Lewe, a clinical educator at the University of Chicago School of Medicine. Cohen-Lewe denounced those in the community who oppose mask-wearing as a safety measure during the pandemic.

"The scientifically illiterate have used this platform as a pulpit to advance misinformation and equate mental contortions with critical thinking," said Cohen-Lewe, who wore a mask to the meeting. "It's upsetting members of our district refuse the most basic, low-burden mitigation strategies in the name of personal liberty in direct spite of the fact that dealing with the minor inconvenience of wearing a mask and getting a vaccine would protect the most vulnerable in our community."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In stark contrast, the second district parent to speak, Dale Walenga, defended going maskless.

"Giving up liberty is the anthesis of what America is all about," said Walenga, who was not wearing a mask. "It's not anyone's job to do anything for anybody else. That's insane. We all live for ourselves, right?"

At that point one or more people in the room called out in opposition to Walenga. School board President Scott McConnell banged on his gavel, chided those who interrupted Walenga and said the board would go into closed session if people weren't respectful.

"Whether you agree with Mr. Walenga or not, he has every right to speak," McConnell said. "We're going to respect him and we are going to listen."

During his five minutes on the microphone, Walenga also said he hasn't watched the news since March 2020 because the media cares only about getting ratings; that if COVID testing and masking were to stop, the problem would go away; that all people are inherently evil and look out for themselves; and that the school district and teachers union hate children.

"Teachers unions are to teachers what child molesters are to children; they are the scourge of society and they need to go," Walenga said before thanking the audience and returning to his seat to applause.

The first day of school is Aug. 17.

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