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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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KK

Barrington School District 220 board member Katie Karam said during the board meeting July 13, 2021 she supports giving parents discretion over their children wearing masks in school. (H. Rick Bamman / Pioneer Press)

Seven-year-old Elise Corcoran stepped up before the Arlington Heights School District 25 board of education Thursday night to deliver her top five reasons why she believes students should not be required to wear masks in the classroom when the new school year begins next month.

“When it is hot in the classroom, we sweat and it sticks to our faces,” said Elise, a rising third grader at Dryden Elementary School.

“I don’t like wearing masks because they make me feel claustrophobic and that makes me feel anxious,” added Jack Mungovan, 12, a rising seventh grader at Thomas Middle School.

The pleas of Elise, Jack and the 500 parents who signed an online petition asking that masks be optional in the fall appeared to resonate with the District 25 school board, which voted unanimously Thursday night to give parents at the kindergarten through eighth grade district the choice of whether or not their children wear masks in the classroom in the fall.

Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state health department’s recent recommendations that unvaccinated students and staff should continue wearing masks indoors to prevent the spread of the virus, District 25 is among a growing slate of suburban school districts that have passed policies this month that veer from the updated COVID-19 guidance for schools.

The updated recommendations arrive at a time when many families are enjoying the state’s loosened restrictions this summer, and some parents are determined that even unvaccinated children should be allowed the same liberties.

“We’re getting kids their freedom back,” said Marsha McClary, a mother of five children who attend Barrington Unit School District 220.

While the District 220 school board on Tuesday approved a plan that gives parents a choice about whether their middle and high school students wear masks in the classroom, officials are still discussing a “phased-in” approach for kids under 12, who are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine.

“I understand the need to still wear masks on airplanes, which is no big deal,” McClary said. “But with our kids, we’re talking about five days a week, for more than six hours a day … you can’t see their emotions and their expressions. So much learning has been lost, and it’s going to take a long time to get that back.”

Read more of the Chicago Tribune article here.

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New Law

Gov. JB Pritzker signs a bill into law Friday requiring all public schools in Illinois to teach a unit of Asian American history, starting in the 2022-2023 school year as the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, left, and Sen. Ram Villivalam look on.

All public schools in Illinois will soon be required to teach a unit on Asian American history and culture as part of their social studies curriculum.

Gov. JB Pritzker on Friday signed a bill known as the Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History, or TEAACH Act, into law, making Illinois the first state in the nation to enact such a requirement.

The bill, House Bill 376, was sponsored by two Asian American legislators, Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, D-Glenview, and Sen. Ram Villivalam, D-Chicago.

Under the new law, beginning in the 2022-2023 school year, all public elementary schools and high schools in Illinois will be required to teach one unit that focuses on the events of Asian American history from the 19th century to the present, including the history of Asian Americans in Illinois and the Midwest, as well as the contributions Asian Americans have made toward advancing civil rights.

The law also provides that the course work will include the contributions made by individual Asian Americans in government, art, humanities and science as well as the contributions of Asian American communities to the economic, cultural, social and political development of the U.S.

It also tasks the State Board of Education with preparing and distributing instructional materials that local districts can use as guidelines as they develop their own curriculum.

Read the full story here.

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Test Option

A new law will require all public universities in Illinois to make standardized admission tests optional, effective January 1, 2022.

The state of Illinois has joined Colorado in passing legislation that requires its public universities to permit students to choose whether they submit ACT and SAT scores when applying to public colleges and universities in the state.

The Higher Education Fair Admissions Act, which applies to all public universities and community colleges in Illinois, states that those institutions “may not require applicants who are residents of the State of Illinois to submit standardized test scores to the institution as a part of the admissions process, and the submission of standardized test scores to the institution shall be at the option of the applicant.”

The measure was signed into law by Governor J.B. Pritzker on Friday. It was sponsored by State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Swansea) and house sponsor LaToya Greenwood (D-East St. Louis). It received overwhelming support in the legislature, passing 109-8 in the House and 45-9 in the Senate. It goes into effect on January 1, 2022.

Read more here.

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CDC 2With about a month until Illinois students start returning to classrooms, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just released its updated COVID-19 guidelines for schools, which were adopted July 9 by the Illinois Department of Public Health for K-12 schools.

The federal guidelines stress the importance of students returning to classrooms, and the Illinois state superintendent has declared mandatory, fully in-person learning for all students. The new recommendations slightly loosen some requirements – such as students wearing masks outdoors – for everyone and allow freedom from many COVID-19 restrictions for fully vaccinated students and staff. However, many restrictions still apply to unvaccinated members of school communities and will disappoint those who had urged relaxed rules for everyone.

Updated guidelines:

  1. Vaccination encouraged, not required
  2. Masks not required for vaccinated persons, but still required indoors for unvaccinated ones
  3. Physical distancing
  4. Quarantining
  5. Screening testing
  6. Cleaning and disinfecting
  7. Other guidelines

Read the full report from Illinois Policy here.

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brainwashing 3000

Carpentersville parents Yosuf Chaudhry and Amena Alvi are speaking out about a former history teacher at their daughter’s school whom accuse of proselytizing through a school club. The Muslim couple are suing Community Unit District 300 and former Jacobs High School teacher Pierre Thorsen. (Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer)

Carpentersville parents Yosuf Chaudhry and Amena Alvi got the shock of their lives when they learned their 15-year-old daughter had renounced her Islamic faith and secretly converted to Christianity.

But how the conversion happened was more worrisome for the Muslim couple, who are accusing a former Jacobs High School history teacher of using his position to proselytize to their daughter and other students through a Christian school club.

After nearly two years of silence, the parents are speaking out about how their family life has been disrupted. The Daily Herald was unable to speak with the couple’s daughter, who, according to her parents, has declined to discuss the matter with the media, and even with them or with counselors.

The couple filed a complaint in federal court last October against Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300, outgoing Superintendent Fred Heid and former Jacobs history teacher Pierre Thorsen. It alleges, among other things, violations of the couple’s rights under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. They accuse the district and Heid of establishing a custom of promoting and advancing Christianity and religion through hiring and retaining Thorsen and allowing him to “promote evangelical Christianity while denigrating other religions for over 20 years.”

The couple say their concern is not their daughter’s conversion itself, but the circumstances that suggest the teenager was being pressured by the teacher about personal religious decisions. They said she previously never had taken an active interest in learning about religion, though she had been allowed the space to develop a personal relationship with God at her own pace in the Islamic tradition. She also hadn’t independently researched other faiths to come to that conclusion, the couple say.

They claim Thorsen, while acting in his capacity as a public school teacher at the Algonquin high school, groomed and indoctrinated their daughter since her freshman year.

Read more here.

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220 Phone

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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