BRADLEY — The Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School School Board heard from some district residents about the school’s mask policy during Monday’s meeting — again. The board had also heard from residents during its August meeting.
In question is the mask mandate for all K-12 schools announced last month by Gov. JB Pritzker as a means to slow the spread of the delta variant of COVID-19. It requires that all students, employees and visitors to schools wear a mask.
Public schools that do not comply run the risk of being put on probation by the Illinois State Board of Education and lose state funding. For nonpublic schools, a loss of accreditation is among the consequences for non-compliance.
There to speak out against students forced to wear masks at school, required masks also became an issue for those wishing to attend Monday’s meeting.
Superintendent Matt Vosberg dealt with those attendees without a mask, and two Bradley police officers joined the department’s school resource officer as standby assistance.
Bradley Deputy Police Chief Craig Anderson addressed the audience prior to the start of a public hearing on the district’s 2022 fiscal budget, an agenda item for the meeting.
“This is not a police incident,” Anderson said. “You are asked to follow the mandate. If you are asked to wear one and do not, the administrators will ask you to leave. I will gladly talk to you and listen to you outside. If you do not comply and do not leave, school officials can ask that you be arrested for criminal trespass.”
Anderson asked audience members to exit the auditorium. Then, to regain admission into the auditorium, each person was asked if they were going to wear a mask. If refused, that person was not allowed back into the auditorium.
There were no incidents and the public hearing began with approximately 50 people in attendance, half of which backed a no-mask policy.
During his presentation on budget facts and figures, Chris Hammond, the district’s chief school business official, made mention of the larger-than-normal attendance.
“Most times I do this at a public hearing, there normally aren’t this many people in attendance,” Hammond said.
Following the conclusion of the budget hearing, the board started its regular meeting with public comment first on the agenda.
School board president Justin Caldwell reminded people that the board would only listen and not respond to comments during this portion of the meeting.
Five adults and one BBCHS student spoke against the school’s alignment with the state mask mandate.
Junior Alex Altmyer said her parents — and everyone else in the community — pay taxes and should have a say in the process.
“I feel if my parents don’t want me to wear a mask, I don’t have to because my parents pay for this school,” Altmyer said. “Before school started, they sent out a survey to parents. It showed 80 percent didn’t want their kids wearing a mask in school. You guys completely ignored it. It really is our choice.”
Altmyer pointed out one of her teachers who has taught with their mask under their chin and also said the mandate doesn’t make sense.
“I find it funny because we sit next to each other at lunch with our mask off,” she said. “But when we go into the hallway and classrooms, we have to wear our masks.”
BBCHS parent Dan Gagnon, of Bourbonnais, said he appreciates the board but acknowledged that it comes down to money and power at the state level.
“You would not be wearing a mask if it wasn’t mandated,” Gagnon said to the board.