Local News

Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47 surveys families on interest in mask-required classrooms

District recently announced it will be encouraging but not requiring masks for unvaccinated students during upcoming school year

After saying that masks will be encouraged but not required for the upcoming school year, Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47 emailed a survey to families Thursday to see if they’d be interested in mask-required classrooms.

The survey was emailed to families of elementary and preschool students, District 47 spokeswoman Denise Barr said. Because middle schools change classrooms throughout the day, the district is not currently looking at mask-required classrooms at those grade levels.

“This idea largely came about from parents who have students who are immunocompromised or have medical conditions,” Barr said.

Barr said that although the survey was sent out only a day before, as of the last time she checked Friday, it had more than 400 responses.

During a school board meeting Monday, District 47 Superintendent Kathy Hinz said no one will be prohibited from wearing a face mask or asked to take one off. Likewise, the district will not be requiring students to wear masks when walking through school doors, but masks will be required on buses.

“We will be encouraging people to wear a mask if not vaccinated; however, I want our focus to be on teaching and learning and building relationships with students and families,” Hinz said in a note attached to Monday’s meeting agenda.

Signage strongly recommending unvaccinated individuals to wear masks will be posted around school buildings, Barr said.

Earlier this month, the Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois State Board of Education adopted new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding schools reopening in the fall.

Under this guidance, masks should be worn indoors by those 2 and older who are not fully vaccinated, but not outdoors. Social distancing of at least 3 feet of physical distance between students in classrooms also was recommended.

Parents at Monday’s meeting spoke out for and against requiring masks in the school, with some saying they wanted a mask requirement to protect their immunocompromised children, and others saying face coverings are negatively affecting students’ social and emotional health.

Mask-wearing is only one of many mitigation strategies District 47 is putting into place for the upcoming school year, Barr said. Along with social distancing, improvements have been made to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in instructional spaces; the district will continue its cleaning and disinfecting protocols; and a voluntary weekly screening testing using Shield COVID-19 tests is being worked on.

This will allow schools to use a modified definition of close contact for those who choose to participate in the voluntary screening testing and keep students and staff in school as much as possible, the district said.

District 47′s plan is to have families be able to opt in to these screenings by mid-August or by the time school starts, Barr said.

Cassie Buchman

Cassie Buchman

I cover Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Cary, Fox River Grove, Prairie Grove and Oakwood Hills for the Northwest Herald.