ROCHELLE – The gallery room of the Rochelle Township High School Gallery was full on Monday with parents and community members pleading with District 212 Council at its monthly meeting to make the masks optional for the next year school.
The board has heard many comments from the public as the Illinois Department of Public Health recently adopted CDC guidelines that masks should be worn by all people 2 years of age and older who do not are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The CDC also recommends maintaining at least 3 feet of physical distance between students in classrooms.
Colleen Esterday, a parent of an incoming freshman, has asked the board to adopt an optional mask policy for this fall.
“As parents, we have a responsibility to make the best choice that we believe is right for the physical, mental and emotional health of our children,” Esterday said. “Our teachers need to get back to teaching and not have to spend unnecessary time playing masked police. Our students need to get back to normal, to learn and to socialize. An optional mask choice for students left to parents is the way to achieve this. “
Angie McGough has four children in Rochelle schools including two in high school.
“For high school kids who are learning to go out on their own, they need to be able to read emotions and respond appropriately,” McGough said. “I think we should all be made aware of what is right for us and our children and that we should have the capacity to make that decision on our own.”
Board chairman Tom Huddleston said the board is “really getting closer” to decision-making and awaiting further direction from the state. He said Superintendent Jason Harper told him his goal was to have “some sort of” final policy statement by Friday.
“We probably share a lot of the same opinions as all of you,” Huddleston said. “Although we are very careful in making the right policies. We don’t start school for several weeks, so we have a little time to make sure we’re doing it right. world will be happy that we do things in everyone’s best interests. “
Harper told the board in their monthly report that he hoped to have more information and advice to share by the time the meeting. He said the guidelines had not been updated since July 9.
Harper said he would continue to brief the board on the changes and partner with the RTHS teachers’ association, the school nurse, the Ogle County health department, the board of Illinois State Education, IDPH, Legal Advisor, and Legal Advisor who represents the school through liability insurance.
Jackie Ramsey, an educational support teacher at La Rochelle Middle School, said at the meeting during a public comment that she represents a local group against compulsory masks.
“I watch all these kids from all over town traveling to different states and everywhere without masks,” Ramsey said. “They’ve been together all year. They’ve been close to each other. I know there’s no social distancing going on. I realize the school has to protect everyone. But it’s a year and a half away and that’s why we’re asking for optional masking now. “
RTHS 2021 graduate Trevor Goodwin spoke at the meeting from a student perspective.
“Having a mask last year really made learning uncomfortable and more difficult,” Goodwin said. “You couldn’t really go out with friends anymore. I don’t think that’s safe, especially for lessons like EP. Why are we talking about optional masks when no one in this room is wearing a mask? “
Huddleston closed the public comments portion by thanking the audience for their input and said the plan throughout the summer was to watch what other districts are doing, see what models are available, and listen to voters. .
He said it is “very important” for the council to have its consensus based on what local residents think needs to be done.
“A lot of your opinions coincide with my opinion,” Huddleston said. “But making the right decision takes a bit of thought. I can make a decision at home very easily. Making a decision on a tip is for everyone. We need to do it right and make sure everyone is on board with this decision.
“I think everyone here will be very happy and proud of how we go into next year.”