Parents ask St. Charles School Board to make masks optional in upcoming school year

As St. Charles School Board members consider what health and safety guidelines to implement in the upcoming school year, a group of parents came to Monday’s School Board meeting to implore them to make masks optional.

Parent Elisa Ignash started an online petition to make masks optional in District 303. More than 1,500 people have signed the petition.

“As parents, we cannot count on the state of Illinois to put the best interests of our kids first,” she said. “But we do believe in the School Board to do the right thing for them.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released guidance for school districts on COVID-19 mitigations for the 2021-22 school year, which the Illinois Department of Public Health has adopted. A major element of the updated guidance includes masks being worn indoors by all individuals age 2 and older who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

State officials also continue to encourage physical distancing of at least 3 feet and students and staff staying home if they are sick to help reduce the risk of transmission. Board members will discuss the issue more at the School Board’s Learning and Teaching Committee meeting at 5 p.m. July 19.

“We hope to have a very positive opening to the school year for our students and staff members,” Superintendent Jason Pearson told board members. “I continue to advocate with our Kane County Health Department and our state agencies to have as a permissive of a opening as possible, with only the necessary guidelines or restrictions in place, based on our local community data.”

Ferson Creek Elementary School second grade teacher Nicole Cournaya told board members that she doesn’t believe masks should be mandated.

“We have multiple states around us that do not have mask mandates,” she said. “”I think it’s over 30 now. Children don’t need to be in masks. We spent a ton of money on a phonics program and you cannot see children’s mouths and how they’re forming their mouths when they are doing the phonics work. Sometimes a teacher can’t even see who is speaking.”

She also said it is not her business whether a student is vaccinated or not.

“I don’t think that kids need to be singled out, whether they are vaccinated or not,” Cournaya said. “It’s not my business. I’m not a health care provider. I am not a psychologist. I am not a social worker. I am a teacher. And I just want to teach my kids. I just want to teach my students.”

St. Charles parent Valerie Chaggaris also requested board members to make masks optional in the upcoming year, regardless of their vaccine status.

“My daughter and our entire family chose to get the vaccine,” Chaggaris said. “Some families chose not to get the vaccine or not to get it for their kids. And that’s their right. It’s also their right to not be required to wear masks based on their decision. You can’t segregate the vaccinated and the unvaccinated because that’s discrimination.”

Chaggaris also talked about how masks are causing physical and mental problems for some kids.

“They are doing more harm than good,” she said.

However, St. Charles resident Linda Robertson, president of International Microbial Associates Inc., took exception to that comment and similar comments.

“I’m hearing about all these dreaded diseases you can get from wearing a mask,” Robertson said. “I wear masks to protect myself from chlorine dioxide and hydrogen sulfide as well as viruses and bacteria and the fact that surgeons wear them for hours at a time without having a problem, it really mystifies me…And I plead to anyone in this room who has not been vaccinated to really consider it, because that delta variant is scary.”

Eric Schelkopf

Eric Schelkopf

Eric Schelkopf covers St. Charles and writes entertainment stories for the Kane County Chronicle.