Masks will be optional for older students in Dist. 220

  • Students at Barrington High School won't be required to wear masks when school resumes next month, school board members decided Tuesday, but that won't be the case for K-5 students in District 220.

      Students at Barrington High School won't be required to wear masks when school resumes next month, school board members decided Tuesday, but that won't be the case for K-5 students in District 220. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, 2018

 
 
Updated 7/14/2021 5:40 PM

Barrington Area Unit District 220 will make face masks optional for students in sixth grade and above when classes resume in August.

The decision came during a loud and lively meeting Tuesday in which school board members continually were interrupted by boisterous opponents of any policy that would require students to wear masks.

 

The district also will develop a plan to phase out the indoor mask requirement for students and staff in lower grades. There will be no mask requirement for outdoor activities.

Updated guidance issued last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that masks should be worn indoors by all students and staff who are not fully vaccinated. District 220 officials made no distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated students Tuesday.

"I think we all agree the goal is to get to a mask-optional (situation)," board President Sandra Ficke-Bradford said.

Ficke-Bradford had to pound her gavel repeatedly throughout Tuesday's heated discussion to quiet the crowd. At times she threatened to take a break from the proceedings to restore order.

It was the first school board meeting for new Superintendent Robert Hunt. He and district officials will work on a plan to implement a mask-optional strategy for all grades, while considering public health guidelines. The plan will be presented at a special school board meeting set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 21, in the Barrington High School auditorium.

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The plan will include "metrics that we would look at (and) mitigation strategies for a phased approach," Hunt said. There also will be information on potential quarantining requirements for all grades and a timeline for implementation.

"If we're going to do mask-optional, we're going to have to up some of the other mitigation strategies," board member Barry Altshuler said. "It would be a step by step by step. We can't just open with no protection. COVID is still here. It's not going away."

"That's why I want to see the plan," Ficke-Bradford responded.

Board members began the meeting with four options for masks in the upcoming school year: universal masking for all students and staff; masking for only unvaccinated students and staff; a phased masking approach; and masks optional.

Nearly half the four-hour session was taken up by public comments, most from people encouraging board members to make masks optional. A few wanted the mask requirement to stay in place, and a few who welcomed Hunt to the district.

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