The Sycamore Community School Board of Education agreed Wednesday to allow the district superintendent to set a mask policy for each school.
"The Board approved a resolution that will allow the superintendent to make the decision to require facial coverings by building, grade level, and/or district for staff and students as needed," the school district said in a statement. "The determination will be made weekly under the advisement of the Data Assessment Risk Team’s (DART) assessment of local and school health data. At this time, no decision was made regarding masks for the 2021-22 school year. A decision will be made, again on a weekly basis, closer to our start date of August 30."
This means superintendent Chad Lewis will look at the community COVID-19 data and make a decision about whether or not students need to wear masks. The superintendent's recommendation can change on a case-by-case basis across schools, grades and over time.
“Myself and my team, we are not excited that we're making decisions about health-related issues," Lewis said. "This was punted to us by, I would say, state and local health departments. This is not something the school district should be weighing in on.”
Regardless of how Lewis feels about making these decisions, they will be in his hands when school starts in about three weeks. Parents on both sides of the issue spoke at the board meeting about their feelings on masks.
“If you go along with this now, it's mask, and COVID-suppression measures forever," said parent Jim Singler, who is against a mask mandate. "The bad news and the sad reality of COVID is that there was no strategy to eliminate COVID. There is no public policy justification for ongoing suppression measures.”
Parents for a mask mandate argued that children with a medical condition would be more vulnerable if masks weren't worn, and they wouldn't be able to fully participate in school. Young children who don't have the option to get the vaccine yet would be at risk as well.
There was no overarching mask mandate or policy voted on at the school board meeting Wednesday. Instead, the superintendent will determine the policy weekly.
“We're looking at new cases per 100,000 people per day, vaccination rates was something that we've recently added to our dashboard," Lewis said. "And we have been looking at the most recent data sets."