West Goes Mask-Optional

Julia Koziatek, News Editor

On Monday, February 14th, the Board of Education overseeing District 201 voted to make masks optional for students, staff, and visitors, effective the next day. 

At the time, masks were still required on buses, but this policy was also changed to mask-optional on Monday, February 28th, after the CDC announced that it would lift its mask requirement for buses in public or private school systems. The Center states that “school systems at their discretion may choose to require that people wear masks on buses or vans.” The district plans to continue contact-tracing cases in the school community. 

This decision came along with Illinois school districts across the state ending their own mask requirements following a central Illinois judge’s decision to issue a temporary restraining order against Governor J.B. Pritzker’s executive order in certain school districts (not including District 201), which required mask mandates in schools. The governor lifted the state-wide mask mandate in schools on February 28th.

District 201 Superintendent Dr. Brian Mentzer and Assistant Superintendent Ms. Melissa Taylor responded to questions from Hy News regarding the new policy via email, as per their request. 

“We have received both positive and negative comments. The issue is divisive in our country, so we were not surprised to have folks weigh in on both sides of it. The vast majority of people, however, have been extremely respectful and supportive,” said Dr. Mentzer and Ms. Taylor. 

As the BND reported from the board meeting on February 14th, Mentzer put forth the mask-optional policy as a recommendation, which the board accepted unanimously. 13 people gave public comment at the meeting, most of whom supported the district going mask-optional. The sole student to comment, East senior Conrad Dahm, argued in favor of the mask mandate. For more details on the events of the meeting, see the BND story. 

In its revised February 14th plan, the district also announced the addition of new social workers on both West and East campuses. “We all recognize that COVID-19 has been extremely difficult for students and families,” said Dr. Mentzer and Ms. Taylor. “We wanted to make sure to offer as much social-emotional support as possible on each of our campuses and felt that an additional social worker on each campus would help us meet that need.”

From February 15th to February 23rd, the daily student bulletin echoed a message from the initial mask-optional announcement, stating: “each person has the right to choose whether they are going to wear a mask, free from comment by others. Respect each person’s right to make this decision.”