BY: SOPHIA TATUM, ABC NEWS
(CHICAGO) — In Illinois, where the governor is suing to mandate face coverings in schools, at least one private school says it still wants to leave it up to the parents.
Parkview Christian Academy in Yorkville, Illinois, says it plans to welcome students back full-time this upcoming semester — with masks optional and entirely up to the individual family.
“This is not a political thing for us,” said Jed Davis, president of Parkview Christian’s school board.
“We’re not trying to politicize masks by any means. Again, we’re not anti-mask, we’re pro-choice,” Davis told ABC News in a phone interview.
As a debate rages across the country over mandatory face coverings, schools are quickly becoming the latest battleground in the fight over whether to mask up. The Centers for Disease Control and Protection recommends that both teachers and children over the age of 2 wear masks in school and maintain 6 feet of social distance to prevent the spread of the virus. The CDC says it’s planning to release additional guidance documents by the end of the month, after President Donald Trump criticized its initial recommendations as too tough and expensive.
On Thursday, Illinois Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker, along with the state health director and the state superintendent, filed a lawsuit against Parkview Christian and two other schools, aimed at enforcing a face covering mandate in schools.
“As a father, I would not send my children to a school where face coverings are not required because the science is clear: face coverings are critical to prevent the spread of coronavirus,” Pritzker said in a statement.
“From the CDC to the American Academy of Pediatrics, doctors and epidemiologists agree that in order to bring large groups of people together, especially indoors, a face covering is needed to stop the spread. As school districts finalize their fall operations plans, it is imperative that they understand these clear evidence-based requirements to wear face coverings need to be followed to keep our children, teachers and communities healthy and safe,” he added.
But Davis says the school will maintain a safe environment for the students, and argues that a “one-size-fits-all” solution for all schools across the state isn’t practical.
The debate over whether face coverings should be mandatory is taking place across the country. Earlier this week, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp filed a lawsuit prohibiting localities from implementing face mask requirements, and in Utah, several parents spoke out against mandatory face masks in schools, ABC News previously reported.
In Utah on Wednesday, unmasked parents filled up a room and reportedly did not adhere to distancing guidelines to voice outrage against a mask requirement in the state for children in school. The meeting had to be adjourned for safety reasons.
“If everyone in his nation would just take on a face covering, practice excellent hand hygiene and be smart about their distancing in crowds, we can bring this outbreak to its knees in two, four, six, eight weeks,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said.
Some teachers say they worry about their own health and the health of family members.
Amy Hawkins, a teacher in Volusia County, Florida, told ABC News that she is immunocompromised and said at the beginning of the pandemic, she had a conversation with her nurse that “essentially ended with the idea that if I contract COVID, it will probably kill me,” the mother of two said.
She said it’s still undecided whether masks will be mandated for her school system — some school board members, she said, feel it should be left up to the individual and families.
“Dealing with your mortality at this stage is very difficult,” she told ABC News, also noting that she is currently writing her will for the first time.
Hawkins said she is not sending her two children back to school, “but I still have to go because it’s either that, or I can’t pay the electric bill.”
“I’m literally having to choose between continuing to ensure the best education for the children of my community or risking a very reasonable possibility of death,” she said.
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