School mask mandate polarizes Arlington Heights residents

Gov. JB Pritzker’s mask mandate has become a hot topic in northwest suburban Arlington Heights.

That's because, before Wednesday's announcement, it was one of the school districts that had voted to make mask wearing optional, even for elementary school students. Now, District 25 has been overruled by the governor.

That’s a relief for parent Nathan Ulery, who led an online petition to require masks in schools. 

"We were certainly relieved by Governor Pritzker‘s brave actions to overrule the superintendents and school boards, that frankly had created chaos in the suburbs," said Ulery. 

"We are not stopping our efforts here. At some point the governor’s order will end and we need to know this school board will be committed to following the experts rather than taking political expediency."


But others here say the decision to wear a mask to school should be made by parents, not the governor.

Scott Tranter’s wife teaches fifth graders in Arlington Heights. 

"She wants the kids to be free," said Tranter. "She wants them to have the flexibility to speak freely, clearly. With masks, they’re shy. They’re fifth graders. She needs them to come out of their shells. The masks keep them in."

Students say yes, the masks are a pain to wear. But St. Viator’s High School student Margaret Fecko agreed the adults are making more noise about it than the kids. 

"It’s a little bit of a hindrance when you’re in school and it’s sort of distracting," said Fecko. "But I think everyone should stay safe and I try to wear my mask everywhere, even though I’m fully vaccinated."

After Wednesday’s order by Pritzker, the superintendent in Arlington Heights sent an email to parents saying the district is reversing course and masks will be mandated when school starts in a couple weeks.