Masking remains a hot topic at WEGO following judge’s decision


Photo by Leslie Fireman

Sophomores Joey Engstrom and Ryan Zalak don masks at the curriculum fair in December.

By D'Marcus Marin and Asa Kuharich

Following a controversial ruling on Friday, February 4 fourth from a Sangamon judge, West Chicago Community High School students’ and teachers’ opinions differ concerning COVID masking and regulations.

Teachers feel that the school administration is doing what they can to keep those in the high school safe and healthy, While students reported that additional measures are necessary to better the situation.

Math teacher Joe McCollum said, “I believe that the administration and school board are always striving to make decisions that take the best interests of the students, staff, and community as a whole into account.  Needless to say, I have my trust in them with the actions that are being taken in regards to COVID mitigation.”

One of the key debates throughout the pandemic is whether COVID-19 vaccinations should be required, particularly in schools, where other vaccines, such as the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) or tetanus, are considered mandatory for entry.

Senior Ashley Malay said, “I believe negative test results should be required. The vaccine being optional is understandable, but someday, I hope it becomes mandatory if COVID doesn’t go away.”

“I think that vaccines are something that were developed, and I think it’s smart to receive the vaccine, however, I don’t think it should be mandatory. With a lot of other vaccines, people aren’t forced to wear them,” said senior Melissa Pani.

The debate as to when masks should be phased out or eliminated altogether continues.  Last week, Pritzker said in a press conference that masks will no longer be required in public indoor places (not including schools) starting February 28. Whether masking will be enforced in schools remains unknown.

Junior Moses Perezchica said, “Because of COVID-19, it’d be unsafe for students to go to school without a mask at any time.”

Malay said, “I believe masks should be enforced to shrink the spread of COVID, and should only be uplifted when COVID is under control.”

PE teacher and softball coach Brittany Abdishi said, “Next year, in regards to wearing a mask, should truly depend on what the COVID rates are like, so if we have it under control and things are going well, then maybe no masks is the best option. If it’s not necessarily under control, maybe masks are the best option. But I think it really depends on what numbers look like in the state, in the country, and so forth.”

West Chicago Community High School nurse Cathy Collins-Clarke said that mandating masks does not guarantee prevention of COVID-19, but stressed that there are many more options schools can pursue to prevent or at least slow the spread.

Collins-Clarke said, “If you won’t wear a mask, at least be decent and be clean. Washing your hands is still a great thing to do.”

Ultimately, the next few weeks should bring about some major changes in terms of the COVID regulations and mask mandates. The Delta and Omicron variants are still a threat to health and safety, and Pritzker is expected to make additional statements later this month. 

Update: Masks will no longer be required for students as of February 18, per an email/text sent to parents in District 94.