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Parents advocate right to choose if kids wear a mask for upcoming fall term

Education and health leaders still work to develop back-to-school plan in light of COVID-19
Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 5:39 PM CDT
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ROCKTON, Ill. (WIFR) - “I just felt kind of helpless,” said parent, Jamie Szilagyi.

Jamie Szilagyi has five kids - two attend Hononegah High School in Rockton. After a disruptive academic year, she wants to take back the reins of her children’s education for the upcoming fall term.

“I was thinking, am I just going to sit on the sidelines this year, and say this is ok, knowing now, how my own children reacted,” said Szilagyi.

Szilagyi created a Facebook group called Parents for Choice. It quickly grew to more than 500 members.

“I am not anti-mask, I’m not anti-vaccine, I am you get to decide what is right for your family,” said Szilagyi.

Szilagyi and other members of the group plan to address the Hononegah School Board until a plan is set.

“That’s really critical at this point, that we’re able to make those choices for our children,” Szilagyi said. “And to have that agency, because these are our babies! We know that. We know what we’re seeing.”

School Board President, Dave Kurlinkus, said education leaders are just trying to figure out how to compose a back-to-school plan using guidance from the Winnebago County Health Department.

“We’ve got 2,000 students, we have to have them in the building, and we’re down to a 3-foot distancing,” Kurlinkus said. “You’re talking about being able to put maybe 10 kids in a classroom. If you’re signing up for Spanish, 10 kids just isn’t going to do it.”

Kurlinkus said education leaders will not be monitoring students’ vaccination status. As far as a mask requirement, it’s up in the air until leaders reach a decision in August.

“There’s lots of people who have different views on that and we’re going to look at all of them,” said Kurlinkus.

23 news reached out to the Winnebago County Health Department for a comment. They responded with the following statement:

“Winnebago County Health Department has been working with the Regional Office of Education to develop guidance for schools for the 2021-2022 academic calendar. The commitment has been to return all students to full in-person learning. The approach that both private and public schools in Winnebago County are considering is a layered approach to mitigation to prevent transmission of COVID-19. Mitigations include masking, vaccination, testing, social/physical distancing and contact tracing. School leadership will be working with their local School Boards to consider mitigations and the best approach for their schools.”

The Hononegah School Board met Wednesday night with parents in attendance. You can click here to see what was discussed regarding COVID-19 protocols this fall.

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