Mask Shot

Despite the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending schools start the year with everyone wearing masks indoors, many suburban school districts have yet to change course on decisions that make protective face coverings optional.

School boards in Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211, Kaneland Unit District 302, St. Charles Unit District 303, Geneva Unit District 304, Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 and Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200, among others, voted to make masks optional. That was in spite of earlier CDC advice that unvaccinated students and staff members be required to wear masks indoors.

None have reversed those decisions in the face of the CDC’s stricter guidelines announced Tuesday. In some cases, the districts have told parents they are aware of the CDC’s recommendations.

The Barrington Unit District 220 board indicated students in prekindergarten through fifth grade “will begin the school year wearing masks indoors.” That board is slated to meet again Aug. 10.

Some school boards voted to make masks optional even after the CDC updated its recommendations last week to advise universal masking in schools. The Lake Zurich Unit District 95 and Northwest Suburban High School District 214 boards both voted in favor of optional masks Thursday.

Read more here.

155Crystal Lake-based Community High School District 155 will make masks optional for the upcoming school year, the school board and district officials confirmed at a meeting Wednesday night.

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended all teachers, staff, students and visitors in schools wear face masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status. This recommendation was quickly adopted by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Earlier in July, the CDC had said masks should be worn by those who are not vaccinated.

District 155 Superintendent Steve Olson noted that guidance on reopening schools from state and federal officials continues to shift and change quickly.

But right now, “based on current health data,” the district has decided to start the 2021-22 school year with a mask-optional approach for staff and students, except on school buses where they’re required, Olson said.

Families in the audience were visibly relieved that masks will not be required in school this year, though Olson cautioned that these decisions are subject to change based upon community spread, changing public health conditions and updates from the CDC, McHenry County Department of Health and Illinois State Board of Education.

At this point, the CDC, ISBE and local and state health departments have not mandated that schools require masks.

Read more here.

Yet another truck strikes roof of Long Grove bridge


Another truck got stuck under the cover of Long Grove’s iconic bridge on Thursday. (Neil Holdway | Staff Photographer)

A truck became wedged under the roof of Long Grove’s iconic covered bridge late Thursday afternoon, marking at least the 15th time the bridge has been damaged since it reopened last August after major repairs from a previous crash.

Police were dispatched to the scene about 4:30 p.m. after the truck — a 2013 white Chevy — got stuck, the Lake County sheriff’s office said.

Clearance on the bridge, which is on Robert Park Coffin Road, is 8 feet, 6 inches.

The Lake County sheriff’s office deflated the tires of the truck to free it Thursday.

More here.


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.

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.

Read more here.

Editorial note: District 214 includes Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove, John Hersey, Prospect, Rolling Meadows and Wheeling High Schools.


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)

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.

Read more here.

JB Mask

People working or visiting inside a state-run building will have to wear masks again, even if they’re fully vaccinated, following an order issued Thursday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The edict comes days after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised anyone in counties experiencing substantial or high COVID-19 exposure risk to wear masks in public indoor settings.

The governor’s order is broader and covers all facilities, regardless of the virus’ transmissibility threat in those counties, “given that the majority of the state is experiencing substantial or high COVID-19 transmission as measured by the CDC,” Pritzker said.

The move comes the same day Cook County joined DuPage, McHenry and Will counties in the Chicago area as counties with a substantial transmission risk, which is any county experiencing 50 to 99 new cases per 100,000 residents over a week’s time, according to CDC standards. High risk is 100 or more new cases per 100,000 residents.

“The safety and well-being of state employees and residents remains top priority for the state and this decision supports our efforts to provide a safe environment for our workforce and the people we serve,” said Janel L. Forde, director of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services. “Masking up is a step that we all can take to slow the spread of COVID-19 and help ensure that state facilities can continue to operate safely.”

The Cook County Department of Public Health endorsed the CDC mask recommendaton and said it will issue new guidelines Friday.

Read more here.


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

Masks will be strongly encouraged but not required for unvaccinated students and staff when school starts next month in Libertyville Elementary District 70.

The stance is a turnaround for Superintendent Matt Barbini, who two weeks ago 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 that over the past few weeks he has read and heard “some very strong opinions” on masking in schools and, after “a considerable amount of reflection and soul searching,” he changed course. He said it would be difficult to enforce a mask requirement and keeping it could lead to “open conflict” in a divided community.

District officials said they don’t want principals or teachers having to enforce a masking rule.

“It’s a polarizing issue, and I understand that,” Barbini said Monday. “We’re not going to make either side happy.”

The district will be require masks for all students and adults on school buses, per directives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

District 70 joins Oak Grove Elementary District 68, Grayslake High School District 127 and Arlington Heights Elementary District 25, among others, in not mandating masks.

Read more here.

The Village Board of Trustees will be conducting their monthly meeting Monday evening at 6:30 PM.  Some of the topics on their agenda include:

  • [Vote] Ordinance Amending Title 8, Deleting in its Entirety, Chapter 5,
    Equestrian Trail License Ordinance 21 –
  • [Vote] An Ordinance Approving a Text Amendment to Add Canine Day Care
    and/or Doggy Day Care with Grooming, Training and Boarding, Day Care/Child
    Care/After School Care and Church/House of Worship to the List of Special
    Uses in the B3 General Business District Ordinance 21 –
  • [Vote] An Ordinance Amending Title 4, Building Regulations of its Code of
    Ordinances to Update Code References Ordinance 21 –
  • [Vote] A Resolution Authorizing and Approving the Execution of an “Amazon
    Locker Location Agreement” Allowing Placement of an Amazon Delivery
    Kiosk/Locker in Village Hall Resolution 21 –
  • [Vote] Equestrian Commission Appointment: Tricia Wood – Term through April
  • 9th Annual The Hills Are Alive Fall Festival – Sunday, September 19th – Noon
    to 4 PM

A copy of the disappointing agenda can be viewed and downloaded here.

Why disappointing you may ask?  Because for the third month in a row this administration has failed to step up publicly to address a clear conflict of interest existing at our Village Hall. Matter of fact, there isn’t even a place on the agenda to report what was discussed at the specifically nonspecific Personal Committee meeting held Monday.

Residents deserve better.

Forest Trails Stables

Forest Trails’ horses guide riders through Wayne Grove Forest Preserve in Bartlett.

Ready to take the reins for a scenic ride through DuPage County forests? Longtime equestrian center Forest Trails Stables in Bartlett is now offering 50-minute, guided trail rides for riders aged 8 and up.

The guided, walk-only trail rides through a heavily wooded, scenic trail in Wayne Grove Forest Preserve are offered from 9 AM to 4 PM weekends and select weekdays. Appointments are required and available by calling (630) 774-8648. Rides cost $50 per person, with multi-ride packages available for a discount.

Located on 600 S. Bartlett Road just north of Stearns Road, Forest Trails gives Chicago area residents the chance to enjoy horseback riding in a more central northwest suburban location than many trail riding options. Owned by the same family for 30 years, Forest Trails has earned a reputation for quality care of both horses and people.

“It’s becoming harder and harder to find a way to connect families and active people to horses, and trail rides are a great way to make that introduction,” said Rita Hankins, Forest Trails owner. “No experience is required, and our trail horses are gentle and good at their jobs. I really wanted to make it easier for people to connect with horses an enjoy the beauty of our woods.”

Forest Trails’ rides are limited to five riders per outing to ensure safety and provide a more intimate experience. Helmets are available and strongly recommended for adult riders and required for children. Masks are recommended for riders under 12. All aspects of the trail ride, including mounting and dismounting, take place outdoors, and horses provide built-in social distancing, Hankins noted.

For the health and safety of riders and horses, there is a rider weight limit of 225 pounds. Riders must wear long pants and closed-toe shoes. Waivers are required for each rider, and a parent or legal guardian must sign for riders under 18.


Smoke from the forest fires in the West continues to flow into our area, resulting in colorful sunsets like this one Thursday over the Hill & Dale farm in Barrington Hills. (Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer)

Those hazy days of summer have become a lot hazier recently, and experts blame wildfires raging out West and in Canada.

Authorities say 80 large wildfires are now burning across the U.S., including 19 in Montana. More than 200 fires are burning in Manitoba and Ontario, according to Canadian officials.

Carried by winds, smoke from the wildfires covers much of the United States, affecting air quality.

The fires are also responsible for the setting sun appearing as a brilliant orange orb. That visually arresting image results from dust particles suspended in the atmosphere and absorbing light, said Brian Leatherwood, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Romeoville.

“It’s an interesting phenomenon,” he said. “(Dust particles) filter out more of the blue light and allow the red light to come through.”

Haze from the smoke stretches from the Great Plains north to Minnesota and North Dakota, east to the Appalachian Mountains and south to North and South Carolina. Gulf Coast states including Texas have also experienced its effect, Leatherwood said.

Read more here.

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