Board of Education announces district changes, updates on mask-wearing

Recap of the rescheduled Feb. 10 meeting

By Abby Panier

The Huntley School District 158 held its monthly Board of Education meeting this Thursday, Feb. 10. Because of scheduling conflicts, the Feb. 3 and Feb. 17 meetings were consolidated into one and began at 7 p.m.

It opened with second graders from Mackeben Elementary School saying the pledge of allegiance, who were chosen by their teachers for their classroom leadership. They were followed quickly by the Marlowe Middle School cheerleading team, the student-recognition group for this month that won second place at the Illinois Elementary School Association competition. 

The board soon opened to public comments, which were mostly centered around the recent lifting of the mask mandate in the district. Several parents and members of the Parent Union thanked the board in their speech, stating that they hoped the district would continue to keep masks optional as weeks go by.

“Everyone has the right to their own opinion,” said Margaret Chase, a parent of the district. “We should all be able to choose that, and we shouldn’t be forced one way or another. To do so, masks have to be optional.”

Other parents, while congratulating the board on going with judge Raylene Grischow’s ruling, brought up other areas of a student’s life that are still requiring them to wear masks. Both school transportation and after-school programs, like Illinois High School Association sports, are still enforcing masks, prompting outrage and protest from the parent community.

“These kids should not be wearing masks while physically exerting themselves,” said Kimberly Singer, a member of the Parent Union. “That’s extremely dangerous.”

However, not all the public comments were solely focused on masks. The waste reduction co-chair for the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County, Cecilia Carman, stepped up to the podium to share some good news for the district.

On Monday Jan. 31, the Environmental Defenders held a sustainability summit on food waste and single-use plastics. Representatives from District 158 were there and expressed interest in starting composting to reduce food waste in the schools.

“We just really want to help the district continue their strive for sustainability,” Carman said.

Along with their push for more environmentally-friendly schools, the board has announced that the district will be celebrating Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the emancipation of slavery in the United States. As a result, students enrolled in summer school will not have classes on June 19.

Additionally, while regular summer school has a minimal fee, the district will be providing credit recovery instruction free of charge. After positive responses last summer, when the board removed the cost, it was decided to continue the free recovery classes in order to support district families.

Overall, the board is taking a step forward in many departments and aspects of the district, preparing for the end of the year and the start of a new one.