Popular issues raised at Crestwood meeting

By Samantha Tucker samantha@prairiepress.net
Posted 7/19/21

There was polite discussion of hot button topics at Crestwood’s monthly board meeting Wednesday, July 14, where two families asked about next year’s COVID-19 regulations and raised …

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Popular issues raised at Crestwood meeting

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There was polite discussion of hot button topics at Crestwood’s monthly board meeting Wednesday, July 14, where two families asked about next year’s COVID-19 regulations and raised concerns about new sex ed and critical race theory curriculums.

The Reed family voiced their disapproval of mask mandates and contact tracing, saying it was unhealthy for children to wear masks all day and contact tracing made uninfected kids miss school

“I don’t feel like them missing two weeks of school is beneficial,” said mother Kiesha Reed.

Her husband Dustin Reed said they appreciate all the school board’s hard work but are debating homeschooling if this year’s COVID-19 rules are as stringent as last year’s.

“A lot of it depends on how the board decides to do things,” he said.

Superintendent Danette Young responded some restrictions will be in place, but Crestwood and around 280 other districts requested and received local control over mask policy.

“Now the local school board can decide whether school children should wear masks…we as a school can declare masks are optional,” she said.

Guidelines between state and national agencies have been fluctuating and contradictory – for example, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) said student masks would be required in the 2021-2022 school year while the Center for Disease Control (CDC) said they were only recommended. ISBE later changed its stance to match the CDC’s. The board explained their decision on masks is pending further guidance from the state – guidance they had expected but not received the day of the meeting.

Some new rules about social distancing, quarantine and contact tracing were confirmed.

“The contact tracing is changing now depending on whether kids are vaccinated or masked,” Young explained.

A vaccinated person exposed to a positive COVID-19 infection does not need to quarantine unless they show symptoms. Contact tracing is also deemed unnecessary if the infected and exposed persons were both distanced and masked. Student social distancing has shrunk to three feet apart but contact tracing will extend to six feet from an infected person. Additionally, parents will be welcome in the school building for extracurricular activities but not during school hours. This could change as the year progresses.

Young also said the school is not offering e-learning next year since the overall goal in Illinois is to reopen schools. They will provide two weeks of printed schoolwork to quarantined and contact traced students who want to arrange Zoom calls into the classroom.

Another family, whose concerns were echoed by the Reeds, objected to critical race theory and said the state’s new sex ed curriculum was too explicit and sexualized young kids.

Young said the school is taking parents’ and the community’s values into consideration when working with the new curriculums. It is possible to opt out of sex ed by contacting a child’s teacher at the start of the year for a copy of the curriculum in question and a waiver to sign. Students will then be given alternate assignments during the opted-out class time.

“It’s not a really big deal,” Young said, citing previous examples.

She is uncertain whether opting out of critical race theory is an option.

Despite the heavy subject matter, the board thanked parents for their civility and active role in the kids’ education. They will provide updates as they become available, Young said, and invited parents to call or email the school with any future concerns.

Dustin Reed thanked the board for their consideration, saying he and the other parents at the meeting were not the only ones concerned, “I get it, I think everyone feels a bit alike on stuff, but we talked to so many parents who feel the same way – they want their kids to have a normal childhood.”

The board moved through the rest of their agenda swiftly.

Crestwood Board of Education meetings in the 2021-2022 school year scheduled will remain on the second Wednesday of the month at 5:30 p.m. in the media center. Next month’s meeting was rescheduled to 7 p.m. to avoid conflict with an open house event.

Returning Crestwood students can register online but new students are still encouraged to appear for in-person registration, Young announced. Signups at the school are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 3 and 8 a.m.-noon Wednesday, Aug. 4. The board has waived all registration fees for preschool through 12th grade Unit 4 students for the 2021-2022 school year.