Demonstration against COVID-19 vaccine, testing mandate takes place outside Crystal Lake Elementary District 47 offices

Staff vaccination rates ranged from a low of 78% at South Elementary to a high of 95% at Husmann Elementary School.

Demonstrators left dozens of empty shoes outside the Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47 administrative offices Sunday evening along with messages opposing state requirements for school workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or face frequent testing.

The statewide mandate was issued by Gov. JB Pritzker last month. The deadline for schools to meet the requirements was Sept. 19.

“Stop forcing teachers to choose between their jobs and an unlawful mandate,” one of the posters demonstrators left on a door into the district office building said.

Most of the District 47 staff has complied with the mandate by submitting proof of their vaccinations against COVID-19 to the school system, said district spokeswoman Denise Barr. The staff vaccination rates published on the district website for each of its schools ranged from a low of 78% at South Elementary to a high of 95% at Husmann Elementary School as of Friday, when the data was last published.

But the district declined to provide the Northwest Herald its overall staff vaccination rate and the number of its workers that have elected to take tests for COVID-19 instead of supply proof of vaccination. Barr also did not supply vaccination rates for those of its workers considered teachers versus those in other roles.

“We are pleased that the vast majority of our staff have readily complied with the governor’s executive order by either submitting their vaccination card or participating in weekly testing,” Barr said. “Teachers and staff are happy to be back at school and have kids back in our schools and understand and support our mitigation efforts to maintain in-person teaching and learning.

Erica Miller, whose two students attended District 47 before she decided to home-school them during the pandemic partly because of mask requirements in schools, said she participated in the demonstration.

She did so because she had heard District 47 staff members who do not want to be vaccinated felt cornered by the mandate to test for the virus or take a vaccine. She said she thinks Pritzker’s mandate is illegal.

“It’s scary what’s happening in our world. It’s scary what’s happening in the United States of America where we have a constitution. They’re trying to push away religious exemptions,” Miller said.

She argued the safety of the vaccines approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration to prevent COVID-19 transmission remain unproven, despite large clinical trials and reviews by federal regulators showing otherwise.

Another participant in the demonstration also claimed the district was having a hard time filling volunteer slots for certain district activities because of the requirement to show proof of vaccination or submit to testing, but Barr said the district has found volunteers willing to help under the requirements.

“Our parent volunteers have been great about sending us vaccination cards and complying with testing requirements, and I think it’s because they, too, are happy kids are back in our schools and that they have an opportunity to get involved,” Barr said. “... District 47 will continue to follow the governor’s executive orders and the guidance of our state and local health experts to prioritize the health and safety of both staff and students, especially those most vulnerable who are unable to get the vaccine.”

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry covers local government, business, K-12 education and all other aspects of life in McHenry County, in particular in the communities of Woodstock, McHenry, Richmond, Spring Grove, Wonder Lake and Johnsburg.