Masks now mandatory for Stevenson High students, staff
Effective immediately, all Stevenson High School students and employees must wear masks indoors to prevent spreading the COVID-19 virus.
Students at the Lincolnshire school and their parents were told of the edict in an email sent Monday night. The 2021-22 school year begins Aug. 12, but staffers and students have been on campus throughout the summer.
Students or employees who have medical conditions preventing them from wearing masks indoors should email notes from doctors to the school nurses.
The decision was based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's updated recommendation for universal masking regardless of individual vaccination status and local transmission rates, Principal Troy Gobble and Superintendent Eric Twadell said in the email.
The Illinois Department of Public Health supports that recommendation.
Stevenson High School District 125 board member David Weisberg agrees with the mask edict, which came from the school administration. He said he was surprised the issue has become such a hot political subject.
"There are so many opinions out there. It's much easier and responsible to take the lead from the Illinois Department of Public Health," Weisberg said. "I'm more comfortable listening to them."
With about 4,400 students, Stevenson is the largest high school in Lake County and one of the largest in the state.
Initial feedback from the Stevenson community was "largely neutral," spokeswoman Jaimie Oh said, with most people inquiring about logistics for the new school year.
"Some families who prefer to be more cautious have asked about remote learning, which will not be an option per guidance from the CDC and IDPH," Oh said. "Others have asked about scenarios in which being unmasked would be allowed, which will include any time spent outdoors and during lunch."
Stevenson officials are studying how best to space out students during lunch periods, Oh said. Tents used during the 2020-21 school year have been removed, she said.
Stevenson officials are strongly encouraging parents to send digital copies of students' COVID-19 vaccination records to the school's nurses to assist with contract tracing and quarantine efforts when needed.
"Having these documents on hand will allow us to quickly determine which students need or do not need to quarantine, therefore allowing vaccinated students to stay in school," Gobble and Twadell said in the email.
Students who do not provide proof of vaccination will be considered unvaccinated for contact tracing purposes and will be required to quarantine and make up school work at home for 10 days, they said.
Additionally, Stevenson officials are considering offering optional weekly COVID-19 testing for students, the administrators said. Details are pending and will be shared with families.
Stevenson High isn't the only suburban school enforcing a mask mandate. All Naperville Unit District 203 students and staff members are required to wear masks, too, as is the College of DuPage.
Conversely, the Maple Park-based Kaneland Unit District 302 board voted last month to make masks optional. Masks are optional in Arlington Heights-based Northwest Suburban High School District 214, too.