Parents Ask to Make Masks Optional at District 203 Meeting

February 8, 2022
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Last night, the Naperville School District 203 Board of Education recessed three times at its meeting, and the start time was delayed due to some members of the public not wearing their face coverings.

Asking to Make Masks Optional

Around 100 community members attended the meeting, with more than 30 parents and students taking the podium during public comment. Nearly all expressed their frustrations with the board’s decision to continue their mask mandate. They asked to instead make masks optional. “Why? Why are you continuing to enforce a mandate that has been ruled null and void?” said Lisa O’Rear, a District 203 parent.

Sangamon County Ruling

Last Friday, a Sangamon County judge issued a temporary restraining order against Governor J.B. Pritzker’s mask mandate in schools. This was in response to a lawsuit filed by a group of parents from 146 school districts. District 203 was named as a defendant in the case. One parent spoke about his 10-year-old daughter and her reaction when she heard she may not have to wear a mask to school.

“This morning she got up before us and she started singing a song to her dolls about how excited she was that kids were finally going to be able to see her smile, that she would be able to see other kids’ smiles. That kids would be able to understand her and she would stop being picked on because they could not understand her through her mask because her speech has been delayed even more than her special needs, said District 203 parent Mike Dahm.

Due to the judge’s ruling, some student speakers at the meeting said they did not wear their masks to school on Monday. They said they were taken into other rooms in their schools to do e-Learning.

“Although after a little more than an hour I was brought back into the Dean’s office and was asked to go home. I left school at 10 a.m. today,” said District 203 student Brooke Sawatzky. “I was denied a proper education for the day because I wasn’t wearing a simple piece of cloth over my face.”

One Naperville North High School teacher was one of few public commenters in support of the district’s decision. “I want to thank you for maintaining our COVID mitigation strategies in the face of enormous public pressure to pretend the pandemic is over,” said Amy Vogelsang.

Why D203 Continues Mask Mandate

The district noted the uncertainty of the legal effect of the order and the “significant confusion” in reports about the order as part of the reason for their decision to continue with their current COVID-19 mitigations.

“Naperville 203 made the decision with the advice and the direction of our legal counsel to continue to implement the same layered mitigation strategies for the guidance of the national, state, and local health departments that have allowed us to successfully navigate through the school year,” said Superintendent Dan Bridges. “I also intend, in partnership with other superintendents and our advocacy groups, to continue pushing for clear guidance for schools that will allow us to move forward and to more freely make decisions on a local basis.”

The district said it would continue to provide updates to come as the legal process plays out. At the meeting, some community members said they are seeking or plan to seek legal action against District 203.

Governor Pritzker’s office is taking action to appeal the judge’s decision.

Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.