Fearing disruptions from mask protests, Fremont District 79 switches to remote learning
Fremont Elementary School District 79 near Mundelein went to full remote learning Monday due to reports of planned demonstrations and protests over its mask requirement.
Fearing disruptions, the district on Sunday announced that it would be taking an "adaptive pause" to remote learning until further notice.
"Our schools cannot become battlegrounds for differing adult opinions," the announcement reads.
The action affects about 2,240 students at the K-8 district's four-school campus on Fremont Center Road, as well as 3- to 5-year-old students at the Lincoln Early Learning Center in Mundelein.
"These protests include intentions to confront and/or interact directly with students," according to the post on the district website, fsd79.org. "These protests would create a substantial disruption to the learning environment and would negatively impact our ability to deliver education to our students."
Officials noted the past week has been challenging for schools because of a Feb. 4 temporary restraining order issued by a downstate judge against a statewide masking requirement inside schools.
That ruling has created uncertainty and disruptions at schools throughout the suburbs. Some districts have made indoor masking optional, while the rest -- like District 79 -- have kept the requirement in place pending clarification of the ruling.
"The impact of the recent temporary ruling for those who were named and not named in the mask/mitigations lawsuit has been hotly debated," Fremont officials said.
Clarification is taking longer than expected with an appellate court ruling on the mask/mitigation matter expected Thursday, according to Fremont 79.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker's executive order mandating masking in schools remains effective until March 6.
Protesting students have in some cases been supported by parents.
On Friday, for example, adults brought lunch for students protesting outside Libertyville High School. At Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, a small plane trailing a message to unmask students there and at two other districts flew over the gathering. Mask requirements remain in effect at both districts.
Last Thursday, Vernon Hills-based Hawthorn Elementary District 73 canceled a scheduled school board meeting after a number of unmasked adults refused to comply with requests from the staff and police to either wear a mask or leave the building.
"We have tried to minimize disruptions to learning, but the masking debate has now disrupted the regular function of the board," spokesman Michael McFarlin said.
The mask requirement remains for any person on school property. No student or parent protests have occurred, he said.
Last week, Libertyville Elementary District 70 made masks optional but kept other mitigations.
At a special meeting Friday, the Green Oaks-based Oak Grove Elementary District 68 school board also discontinued mandatory masks in schools as of Monday.
The mandatory exclusion/quarantine of close contacts from in-person learning and mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated school personnel also were discontinued in District 68.