After an emergency board meeting was held Mon, Feb 14, the board voted to accept the administration’s recommendation that wearing a mask will be respectfully requested, but no longer required at District 99 starting Mon, Feb 28.
This meeting was held in response to a judge ruling in favor of a lawsuit filed against Governor J.B. Pritzker and his executive order on mandatory masking. Since District 99 was named in the lawsuit, this was considered an emergency meeting. Board Vice President Michael Davenport gave reason to why he called for the emergency board meeting.
“We need to evolve, balance competing interests and all potential harms. Indeed it is that sentiment that caused myself and another board member to call for this emergency meeting,” Davenport said.
Superintendent Hank Thiele outlined in an email to District 99 students and families Sun, Feb. 13 that he will recommend masks be respectfully requested, but no longer be required starting Friday, Feb. 18. Despite the recommendation, the seven board members are responsible for voting for the decision of mask requirements.
“No matter what the board decides on Monday, whether to support my recommendation or continue to follow the protocols it established last August based on the advice of health experts, the administration will follow their direction. I ask the community to do the same,” Thiele said.
During the meeting Thiele referred to statistics representing the overall cases in states with varying requirements as well as statistics reviewing new admissions of patients with COVID-19 per capita in Illinois. Additionally, they looked over professional recommendations and the CDC guidelines.
After many districts named in the lawsuit have gone mask optional, Downers Grove South’s Principal Edward Schwartz spoke at the meeting and supported the approach of a mask optional learning environment.
“I will tell you in hindsight and looking back masking at the start of the year may have helped us transition back to an all-day in person school,” Schwartz said. “I think it’s the next time to transition.“
There were 19 other district 99 members who spoke in support of not upholding a mask requirement in school. Multiple students took to the stand that bullying and poor treatment was happening within the school.
“For some reason our small group of students protesting are being treated terribly with no respect,” Junior Jordan Raymond said. “I encourage you to rule in favor of freedom, education, the 1st and 14th amendment, and most importantly unity.”
“I can’t speak for everybody who wants a mask required because some people are very respectful. However, many mask supporters have consistently delivered hate and threats to myself and others since last week,” senior Brooks Johnson said.
Following the mask decision, contact tracing will also end starting Mon, Feb. 28, but sick students/staff will be expected to stay home. The protocols also detail that the school will continue to follow federal laws, including masking on buses and in district vehicles, as well as applicable state laws.