Education

Group of St. Charles District 303 parents continue to rally against Gov. JB Pritzker’s mask mandate

A group of St. Charles District 303 parents on Aug. 16 again protested the district’s decision to abide by Gov. JB Pritzker’s executive order mandating that masks be worn indoors in schools regardless of vaccination status.

For the second straight week, the group made its feelings known of their opposition to requiring masks in local schools. They held up signs that said “Unmask Our Children” and “End The Child Abuse” as part of a rally that took place before a school board committee meeting and special school board meeting.

They had rallied ahead of a planned school board meeting last week that had to be rescheduled to Aug. 16 because of reported tornadoes in the area Aug. 9.

Their opposition comes amid a spike in coronavirus cases across the country and in Illinois brought on by the delta variant.

Before the governor’s executive order, school board members had voted unanimously to make masks optional for the new school year.

School board members took that vote before new guidance was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that everyone in K-12 schools wear a mask indoors, including teachers, staff, students and visitors regardless of vaccination status. The CDC announced the new guidance to prevent further spread of the highly transmissible delta variant.

A new national Axios/Ipsos poll conducted between Aug. 13-16 found that nearly 70% of those surveyed favor local school districts requiring masks in schools.

The poll also found a partisan split when it comes to support for in-school masking requirements. Among Democrats, 92% favored a school masking requirement, compared to 44% among Republicans, it found.

The poll was conducted online by Ipsos’ KnowledgePanel and had a margin of error of “+/- 3.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level,” according to Axios.

District 303 parent Mitch Bridges held up a sign that said “End The Child Abuse.” Bridges said he pulled his son out of Munhall Elementary School because of the mask mandate.

He would like the school board to return to its previous stance that masks be optional.

“Then everybody gets what they want,” Bridges said. “My kid can go back to school mask free.”

His other child is in high school and wears a mask to school.

Bridges addressed school board members during a Learning and Teaching Committee meeting along with District 303 parent Shannon Sullivan, who has two children who attend St. Charles North High School. Sullivan organized rallies last fall calling for a return to in-person learning.

“Why can’t I choose what’s best for my child? Sullivan asked. “My kids have masks on today not because I’m afraid they’re going to die or kill anyone but because I want them to go to school and have an in-person education. So I play along with this charade.”

District 303 parent Meghan Bradt thanked school board members for following the mask mandate.

“I completely understand the other side,” she said. “But I appreciate that you are also helping to keep my children safe so they don’t have to worry about getting mom sick.”

Before Pritzker’s order, the school district had begun surveying parents about whether their child would wear a mask when they started classes Aug. 11. During the school board meeting, board member Ed McNally asked for the results of the survey.

“We actually don’t have the results right now,” District 303 Superintendent Jason Pearson said in response. “We kind of stopped collecting that when the governor issued his mask mandate. If we need that information, at a subsequent time, we would readminister the survey.”


Eric Schelkopf

Eric Schelkopf

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