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JB Mask

Dr. Ngozi Ezike will be joining the Governor J.B. Pritzker for a presser at 2:30 p.m. at the Thompson Center.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday will issue a mask mandate for preschool through high school students and staff statewide and a vaccine mandate for state employees in prisons, veterans homes and other congregate settings as Illinois tries to blunt a fourth spike of the coronavirus pandemic, sources said.

As the fall semester approaches, school boards across the state have grappled with the decision of whether to require masks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week issued new guidelines including a recommendation that everyone wear masks in schools, regardless of vaccination status.

Pritzker, who’s made his handling of the pandemic central to his reelection bid next year, is stopping short of requiring all state workers to get vaccinated but will mandate it in settings where people are in the direct care of the state, including prisons, juvenile detention facilities and veterans homes.

Read more here.

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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.

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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.

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214

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.

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95

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.

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70

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.

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BHS Sign

After a five-hour meeting Wednesday night that included dozens of comments from members of the public, the Barrington Area Unit District 220 board did not reach a consensus on a mask policy for the upcoming school year.

A crowded and five-hour Barrington Area Unit District 220 board meeting ended late Wednesday night with members unable to settle on a final policy for masks when students return to class next month.

Because the session was a special meeting, the board members could not vote on a policy had they agreed. That vote could come when the board meets again Aug. 10 — 10 days before the first day of school.

“Well, I’m disappointed,” board member Angela Wilcox said. “I was really hoping that we could come to some sort of situation to move forward. I think that we’ve seen is wishy-washy, and I know you’re saying that you’re looking for more information, but it doesn’t feel like being leaders. It seems like kicking the can.”

The board agreed earlier this month to make face masks optional in grades 6-12 and develop a plan to phase out an indoor mask requirement for students and staff in prekindergarten through fifth grade.

Superintendent Robert Hunt presented a proposal Wednesday that would make masks recommended, but not required, for the older students and implement phased approach for earlier grades. That approach would see students wearing masks when a social distance of three feet cannot be maintained.The district would then monitor local COVID-19 case data and make decisions based an that information.

Other proposed mitigation strategies include designated entrances, the use of hand sanitizer, three-foot social distancing and limited visitors in buildings. High-touch surfaces will be cleaned daily, and physical education will take place outdoors as much as possible.

Read the Daily Herald story here.

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From District 220:

“At the July 21 special Board of Education meeting, the Board and Dr. Robert Hunt, Superintendent of Schools, thanked the many community members who have reached out through emails, phone calls and public comment at Board meetings to share their perspective on COVID-19 protocols for the 2021-22 school year. In addition, Dr. Hunt expressed the importance of continuing to work together in order to move forward, and presented the Board with a plan that prioritizes in-person learning and layered mitigations.

To listen to Dr. Hunt’s presentation, click the video link above. You can also click here to view the presentation in PDF format.

The Board did not take any action at the meeting, however based on the discussion, it is anticipated that students in grades PreK-5 will begin the school year wearing masks indoors. The district will add Shield testing to obtain school based data, and develop a matrix which will inform decision making on mitigation strategies throughout the school year. The Board plans to continue the discussion at its next regularly scheduled meeting on August 10.

To date, the following decisions have been made regarding masks for the 2021-22 school year:

  • The district recommends that all students who are not fully vaccinated wear masks indoors, however students in grades 6-12 will not be required to do so.
  • ALL students will not be required to wear masks outdoors.
  • Masks will be required on buses for students and staff, regardless of vaccination status (per the Centers for Disease Control Order for Public Transportation).
  • Staff who submit proof of vaccination will not be required to wear masks indoors.

In addition, the district will have many mitigation strategies in place at all schools for the 2021-22 school year.

Click hereto view the 2021-2022 mitigation strategies

It is important to note that the CDC, IDPH and Lake County Health Department are leaving mitigation decisions up to local school districts. However, IDPH and the Lake County Health Department fully endorse the recent CDC school guidance and collectively support universal masking. Barrington 220 will continue to receive support and input from the Lake County Health Department, but the health department will not formally approve any Lake County school district plans. In addition, the district anticipates that IDPH will be releasing updated guidance for schools in the near future, which may impact these decisions. Barrington 220 continues to recognize the importance of flexibility, as guidance can quickly change based on public health data.”

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220 Mask WarBARRINGTON, Ill. (CBS) — It is a debate happening at almost every school district in the state and around the country – what to do when it comes to masking this fall.

On Wednesday night, there was no shortage of fireworks in Barrington when the issue came up. The meeting had been going on for more than four hours as of 10 p.m., and more than 60 people had signed up.

Constant interruptions and outbursts forced Barrington 220 School District board to take a recess just minutes into the meeting Wednesday night, which focused on the divisive issue of masks for COVID-19.

Some of the biggest reaction from the crowd came in response to smallest in attendance. Children chanted, “We don’t want to wear these masks,” and had the words, “Please don’t make me wear a mask,” printed on their T-shirts.

“You are simply making decisions based on your own fears,” one girl told the board.

The district is recommending masks for unvaccinated students in grades 6 through 12 grade – but they aren’t required. Kids younger than 12 who aren’t yet eligible for the vaccine will continue wearing masks.

View the CBS Chicago report here.

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BHS

The 220 Board of Education meets this evening at 6:30 PM at Barrington High School located at 616 W Main St.  A copy of their agenda can be viewed here.

Please note the agenda states the following:

“Public Comment can be made in one of two ways:

  • By 12:00 pm (noon) on July 21st leave a voicemail message at 847-842-3576. This will be played during the public comment portion of the January 21st board meeting.
  • By making a public comment in person at the meeting.

This meeting will also be transmitted virtually at bit.ly/220schoolboardlive. Please click on the July 21st meeting, which will appear on the site when the meeting actually begins.”

As “public comment averse” as some on the board are, it should not be assumed comments communicated by email or print will be accepted by this board.

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