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Dunlap To Abide By Executive Order, Require Masks for Upcoming School Year

WCBU: 210811 Dunlap School Board Screenshot.png
Dunlap District #323

In an emergency meeting Wednesday night, the Dunlap Board of Education approved an updated return-to-school plan that includes a mask requirement in accordance with Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Executive Order.

Previously, Dunlap administration had chosen to make masks optional for the upcoming school year. At the July 22 meeting, a number of Dunlap parents voiced their concerns about the optional mask policy.

In the approved plan, the language on the mask requirement states that “once the Executive Order requiring masks for all individuals changes, guidance will be used to update this plan.” The mandate includes indoor sporting events and other indoor after-school activities.

In the public comment portion of the meeting, one Dunlap parent expressed their disapproval of the mask mandate, encouraging the Board to fight the Executive Order with legal measures, and saying parents would resort to “civil disobedience” if the mask requirement is enforced.

In the vote to approve the updated plan, all board members voted in favor except for Tim Wagenbach, who voted no, and Mike Wisdom, who voted present.

Wisdom asserted that his personal and professional beliefs were in conflict, and that he abstained from voting due to "financial threats" made to school districts who ignore the mandate.

"I think that local school boards and administrations are in the best position to make the decisions about what happens in those school districts as opposed to somebody sitting in Chicago. That's my personal opinion," said Wisdom. "From a professional standpoint, I have a great deal of trouble voting to defy [the mandate] given those threats."

Superintendent Dr. Scott Dearman echoed Wisdom's point, but conceded that a mask mandate would result in fewer student quarantines because asymptomatic students in close contact with a positive case are not required to quarantine. He also stated that the District would "explore options for local control."

"There is a financial risk in defying the governor's order," said Dearman. "There is a benefit [to the mandate], if there is such a thing, in that our quarantines should be much lower."

The updated plan also includes a measure to provide remote learning to “any student who is put on quarantine per the IDPH Decision Tree.” The Decision Tree is a set of guidelines that outlines proper action if a student tests positive or is symptomatic.

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Mike Rundle is a correspondent at WCBU. He joined the station in 2020.