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A growing number people no longer need to wear a mask when venturing out in Illinois.

But as students return to school this fall, many may still be required to wear masks. Parents are rallying to change that, protesting and creating Facebook groups to get rid of the mask mandate.

The Illinois State Board of Education still is working on guidance for the next school year and is working to address the concerns of educators and parents as quickly as they can, Illinois Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala said during a meeting Wednesday.

Currently, Illinois is following the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommended in May that “schools continue to use the current COVID-19 prevention strategies,” which includes masks for the unvaccinated.

COVID-19 vaccines are available only to those 12 and older under emergency-use authorization from the federal Food and Drug Administration. The vaccines continue to undergo large scale trials before receiving full approval from the FDA.

“The state of Illinois has put undo harm and pressure on our children,” Marsha McClary, a parent in Barrington Unit District 220, told the ISBE during its meeting Wednesday.

McClary and other parents told the board students should not be forced to wear masks in school this fall as COVID-19 rates plummet as more Illinoisans become fully vaccinated.

McClary said she is a member of an Illinois parents union, with more than 7,000 members on Facebook, that talks about how the state has pressured students during the past school year.

Read more here.

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Property Tax Inflation

Residents of Cook County don’t need to be told that they shoulder a heavy property tax burden. Illinois has the second-highest real estate property taxes in the country, and property taxes in Cook County rose at three times the rate of inflation from 2000 to 2019.

But here’s a revelation: The taxes people pay every year understate the extent of the ultimate obligation. Last year, Moody’s Analytics concluded that Illinois has a bigger public pension debt than any other state, amounting to a crushing $25,000 for every man, woman and child living here. Cook County, too, has huge unfunded pension liabilities — and between 2009 and 2018, they more than doubled.

Want to guess who is on the hook for covering most of those obligations? That’s right: Property owners.

A new report by Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas looks at the tax burden in a new way. Her office calculated the total government debt and allocated a share of it to each property on the tax rolls. This is illuminating because not all properties bear the same burden, even if their value is comparable.

As the report says, “Local governments set the levies, or the overall amount of taxes to be collected, in each of their districts. How much of that overall levy is paid by any one individual property owner is determined by the value of their property, relative to the value of all the property within the taxing district.”

The lowest level of debt to property value is in Inverness, an affluent village in the northwestern part of the county. Pappas puts its debt load at less than 7% of its total property value. The heaviest weight, meanwhile, falls mostly on “less thriving areas with predominantly minority populations and less broad tax bases,” the report says. Homeowners in Riverdale, which is 94% African American and has a median annual household income of less than $34,000, pay taxes that are 2½ times higher than those in Inverness, where the typical family’s income exceeds $180,000.

Read the full Chicago Tribune editorial here.

Editorial note: The Inverness Police Department started patrolling the streets of the Village on May 1, 2009 with a non-union force made up of veterans from other regional departments.

Related:Pappas unveils new online tool to weigh government debt burden on individual property owners

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220

Barrington School District 220 board members, most not wearing masks as they met in person June 15, heard calls from four parents and a student to drop requirement for students to wear masks when school resumes for the 2021-2022 academic year.

Monika Casey was the first of nine speakers during the public comment portion of the meeting. The speakers, including four parents and one student, called on board members to lift what most called the “mask mandate,” which is the requirement that has been in place for all students, vaccinated or not, to wear masks in school, including during the present summer school term.

The use of face coverings – or masks – became a public health requirement as part of addressing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“It’s a critical topic among several with respect to the negative and permanent impacts on our children,” according to Casey, who said she has been district parent for 15 years. “I urge lifting the mask mandate…at today’s meeting.”

Board members didn’t take any action on the mask question at this week’s meeting but did agree to take it up at the July 13 one, although there was no clear agreement on whether the issue would be on the agenda then for discussion or as an action item.

Board members are hopeful that by then the district will have received updated guidance on mask usage from the Illinois State Board of Education. Outgoing Superintendent Brian Harris has said that, as school chief, he is bound to follow ISBE guidance on the matter, as well as guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Lake County Health Department – unless a majority of school board members direct him otherwise.

Read more here.

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Author Veronica Roth shares some words for the Class of 2021

Veronica Roth

Veronica Roth

Veronica Roth, best-selling author of the of “Divergent” series and several other novels, grew up in Barrington and graduated from Barrington High School, Class of 2006. At the Daily Herald’s request, she wrote a commencement address for the Class of 2021.

Dear Graduates,

I think about you guys all the time — about what it would be like to spend your last year of school not indulging in nostalgia, as I did, but adapting to the strange new circumstances in which we now find ourselves: too familiar with Zoom, not familiar enough with awkward graduation parties, low key fretting about the weird maskne breakouts along our jawlines, etc. I’m sorry you lost out on some of these precious normalcies. It reminds me of this exchange from “The Fellowship of the Ring” — Frodo says to Gandalf, “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” And Gandalf replies, “So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

So I’m here to reflect, not on what you’ve lost by living in “such times,” but on what you actually have. This year has acquainted you, a little earlier than usual, with a difficult but important truth. I remember learning it in my mid-20s — after years of working on my anxiety disorder in therapy, I realized that while it might improve, it would never actually go away. Before that, I had this idea of what my personality would be like without it — what my brain would be like if it was “normal.” And I had to let that go. I had to deal with the raw material I actually had, instead of the fantasy I wouldn’t reach.

Try as we might, we always have ideas about baselines — what’s normal, what’s fair, what’s average — and we struggle when we feel we’re given a deviation from that baseline. But as we grow older, we begin to see the unfairly good hands we are dealt as often as the unfairly bad ones, and we can start to let go of those fantasies of what’s “normal.”

So no, graduating in 2021 is not the stuff of high school comedies and photo montages set to Green Day. But there is good in it. You have been acquainted with reality in a particular way, and it can be your strength, if you let it. Times of loss and hardship can either harden us or soften us. They can make us bitter that we didn’t get what we felt we deserved, or they can foster in us deep compassion for people who are struggling. They can make us cynical about the way the world operates, or they can instruct us about how we’d like to improve things. They can make us grateful for every moment of ease, and ready to meet every moment of challenge, knowing we’ve done it before and weathered it. Loss and hardship can form us into wiser, stronger, more loving people — if we let them. If we don’t let ourselves get sour instead.

And I believe in your capacity to avoid that sourness. Every time I talk to people your age, I’m impressed by how much you know, how wonderfully busy your minds are, how careful you are to be respectful of differences. I know that you can stave off bitterness and embrace compassion. I know that you can bear up under difficulty — you are already doing it. You made it to this graduation. You adapted, and endured, and embraced what you could. God, I’m so proud of you all. You’re amazing. Well done.

My parting words for you, then, are to know what you’ve already done, where you’ve already been — and to decide what this time will make of you. Will you get stuck feeling trapped in a life you didn’t choose, and become bitter about an experience you didn’t get? Or will this time be a reminder to you, for the rest of your life, that we are all given particular burdens to bear — and the way we ease them is by bearing them together?

Graduates of 2021: be soft, and kind, and wise. Shoulder each other’s burdens. Make a gentler world, if you can. I can’t wait to watch you do it.

And above all, be proud of yourselves. You made it. Congratulations.

— Veronica

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Harper

Harper College announced Tuesday the largest gift in the Palatine community college’s history: $18 million from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

Harper College officials Tuesday announced receipt of an $18 million donation from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, in what is the largest gift in the Palatine community college’s 54-year history.

“It’s hard to wrap your mind around it, still,” said college President Avis Proctor. “I still get chills thinking about this.”

The unrestricted gift is among more than $2.7 billion awarded to 286 “high-impact organizations in categories and communities that have been historically underfunded and overlooked,” Scott announced in a blog post Tuesday.

Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, gave a combined $6 billion to other groups in two similar surprise disbursements last July and December.

Harper was among more than 30 colleges and universities selected for funding in the latest round, which also included the University of Illinois-Chicago ($40 million) and City Colleges of Chicago’s Kennedy-King College ($5 million).

“Higher education is a proven pathway to opportunity, so we looked for 2- and 4-year institutions successfully educating students who come from communities that have been chronically underserved,” Scott wrote.

Read more here.

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220 Green

The Barrington District 220 Board of Education will be holding two meetings today.  Both notices were posted to the district website sometime after noon yesterday (those familiar with the Illinois Open Meetings Act take note).

A special meeting of the Board will be held starting at noon at the District Administrative Center, 515 W. Main St.  beginning with closed session.  A copy of the agenda can be viewed here.

The Board then meets again at 7 PM at the same location for their second regular monthly meeting. A copy of that agenda can be viewed here. This meeting will be live-streamed on YouTube.

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Masks JBP

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced June 10 that Illinois will move to a full reopening on June 11, but mask mandates and social distancing will remain a mainstay in Illinois schools.

Pritzker said it is critical that schools and day cares use and layer prevention strategies. The two most important ones are universal and correct use of masks, and physical distancing, which he said should be maximized to the greatest extent possible.

Pritzker has enforced COVID-19 mandates by issuing 18 disaster proclamations, a practice that is now under fire from some state lawmakers.

“We are operating and moving down a dangerous path if we allow governors either today or in the future to declare emergency declarations as long as they want without input from the General Assembly,” state Rep. Dan Ugaste, R-St. Charles, said.

Ugaste has House Bill 843 that would amend the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act to require the governor to get legislative approval of consecutive disaster proclamations.

State lawmakers are also examining other COVID-19 fallout, including failings by the Illinois Department of Employment Security and their offices remaining closed, millions spent on hospital leases that were rarely or never used, and the severe backlog of Firearm Owners’ Identifications that doubled in the past 18 months.

Read more here.

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Face Nasks Required

As school districts kick can down the road, politicization widens and deepens

“Summer school begins this week in districts all over the state. Those in charge of the largest in Chicagoland, Barrington SD220, said at a June board meeting they were keeping the status quo.

Brian Harris, the retiring superintendent of SD220, said at the board meeting it was “premature” to make any decisions on masking for the 2020-21 school year and that the job of a superintendent is to follow the guidelines set by public health agencies.

That’s certainly been true for Chicagoland superintendents, especially outgoing ones like Harris. Throughout Covid, not one super at a high school north of I-80 has said anything publicly in defiance of public health guidelines. So Harris is staying true to The Code, parachuting out with his $200k pension and likely to set up a retirement residence outside of the state paid for by Illinois taxpayers.

(Not to pick on Harris. I don’t know the man and I’m sure he’s done a good job in his district, removing Covid from the equation. But would it have been that hard for him to say something like, “I know what current public health protocols are. But with where we are now, with what the data tells us, I believe we need to re-examine those protocols and do what is best of the children of District 220 and the state of Illinois.” One definition of leadership is speaking out in the face of injustices. Opportunity missed by Harris.)”

Read the full article from The Kerr Report here.

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BHS Sign

Will students be required to wear face masks when they return to classes this fall at Barrington High School and other Barrington District 220 schools? School board members are discussing the options.

Barrington Community Unit School District 220 board members are working to define the district’s position on face mask requirements for students, ahead of the 2021-22 school year.

Superintendent Brian Harris said last week he expects the Illinois State Board of Education to come out with new guidelines for the next school year.

“The state superintendent did reaffirm that the current mitigation requirements that we had at the end of the school year carry into summer school,” he said. “They have not changed anything at this point.”

Until there are updates to the guidelines, Harris said he will continue to follow those issued by state and local authorities, unless “directed differently by the board.”

Board member Erin Chan Ding said ISBE officials said in a recent webinar that mitigation requirements are not just guidelines, and districts should consider them requirements enforceable by law. The state could withhold funding for a district not in compliance, she said.

“That’s exactly how our attorneys have interpreted that for the past 15 months,” Harris added.

But board member Steve Wang said he has heard from district parents opposed to a mask requirement.

“There are plenty of school districts out there who have already said they are not going to follow this mandate,” Wang said. “Is that something that we’re willing to entertain?”

Read more here.

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PC Groundbreaking

Staff and Board of Education members at the Prairie Middle School groundbreaking ceremony.

“Barrington 220 hosted three groundbreaking ceremonies on Thursday, May 27, 2021 to kick off the first of many construction projects made possible by a $147 million referendum, which was approved by the community on March 17, 2020.

After 15 years, the mobile classrooms at Prairie Middle School and Station Middle School will be removed this month, in order to begin construction of a classroom addition on each campus. The mobile classrooms were purchased in 2006 as a temporary solution to increasing enrollment. In addition, construction will begin this summer at Grove Avenue Elementary on a new front entrance vestibule, which will provide a more secure entrance to the building. Construction of a new classroom addition at Grove will also get underway in August, in order to replace the current mobile classrooms on that campus. The mobiles were purchased in 2018 as a temporary solution to increasing enrollment.

As much work as possible is being done over the summer in order to minimize disruptions during the school year. Construction at both middle schools is expected to last through November 2022. Construction at Grove Avenue Elementary is expected to last through December 2022. Project work across all D220 schools is expected to last through 2025.”

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