Wilmette parents call for maskless option

Parents demand school board to reconsider mask mandate, give children choice



District 39 parents protest outside Wilmette village hall on Feb. 14 calling for maskless option at Wilmette schools

On the morning of Feb. 14, a group of District 39 parents and children staged a protest on the Wilmette village green against the mandatory mask mandate in the schools. 

District 39 mother Chris Beer spoke out after months of frustration, she said. According to Beer, parents would like the right to choose if their child wears a mask at school. 

Parents believe it’s time to change the mandate because they fear the mental health consequences that come from wearing masks for a long period of time

“That parents at the individual level can choose what’s right for their children,” said Beer. 

On Feb. 4 Judge Raylene Grischow granted parents a temporary restraining order on Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s mandates for masks. His emergency orders were determined “null and void.”

Pritzker and his team are working to appeal the order. 

According to Patch, Pritzker said, “Poor legal reasoning should not take one of our most effective tools off the table,”

Wilmette District 39 was not named in the court order. It has stayed masked and is looking for an off ramp to go mask optional. 

“The reality is a mask-optional environment is coming,” district Supt. Kari Cremascoli told the Record Northshore. 

 Along with other area schools, Wilmette students have been coming to school in masks since August 2020. Parents at the protest said they have heard complaints from their children about wearing their masks all day. 

Parents believe it’s time to change the mandate because they fear the mental health consequences that come from wearing masks for a long period of time.

According to  WGN, “Many of [the parents] worried about the long term effects of wearing masks.”

The group believes a choice is safe now with the decline of covid cases. 

Father of 3 girls, Jim Anderson, told the Record Northshore, “I think it’s time for the board to re-evaluate the mask policy,” 

Children at the morning protest expressed they feel anxiety when wearing masks. Many of them would rather see their friends smile. 

Student Grace Williams told WGN, “I feel suffocated sometimes or anxious.”

Parents are concerned about the restrictions masks put on the students’ ability to hear another person with a mask and to speak with one. 

“They have had to eat lunch spaced out on the floor. They have had difficulty being understood by their friends and teachers because they’re wearing masks,” said Beer. 

At the protest, a few parents came in support of the board’s decisions. They believe district 39’s volunteer board will make the right call for their children and call for patience. 

 “Let them do their jobs, they want an off ramp. They have communicated that they want an off ramp and they are working on it,” said Kim Buckley, a parent in the district.

Parents like Buckley believe the teachers and board of education have worked hard to keep students in school by bringing mask mandates and social distancing rules for students. 

Although the protest was peaceful and civil, parts of this journey have not been the same. 

“But the other nasty emails and nasty comments that are coming in and uninformed things that are said are awful,” said Buckley.

Parents who support the board believe they will make their choice based on numbers. 

The school district had a four-hour board meeting at 8 a.m. just after the protest ended. 15 parents against the mask mandate spoke at the meeting. 

In the meeting, the district discussed that they are planning to remove masks. According to the Record Northshore, Cremascoli talked positively about a review for their mask off ramp to be presented at their next board meeting on Feb. 22. 

As Covid cases fall, the district is ready for a mask optional environment with social distancing and contact tracing, according to Cremascoli. The board is finding a safe way to do so, she said. 

“We are all eager for this change to be possible and we all look forward to a time when wearing a mask can be optional.”