Aurora Board of Education voted to make masks optional

At Monday night’s meeting, the Aurora City Schools’ Board of Education approved a new policy that will make mask wearing optional in the school system effective Jan. 25. The resolution was approved in a 4-1 vote.

Several parents and teachers made public comments before the vote, most expressing concern that rising case numbers will force the school to return to remote learning. Michelle Dirda, Vice President of the Aurora Education Association, read a statement from the organization urging the board to vote against the new rules. 

“The outbreaks we experienced this fall were mitigated by mask wearing. Without masks, we would have had a significant increase in both students and staff who would have had to be quarantined,” Dirda said. She also cited a survey of Aurora City School teachers taken on Dec. 20, to which 84% responded that a mask mandate is “important for the health and safety of keeping kids in our classrooms.”

Two community members came forward to advocate for making masks optional, citing personal freedoms as a main concern. One of these speakers clarified that his children no longer attended Aurora schools.

In comments before the vote, more than one school official questioned the timing of the motion. “It’s been this long, so why are we [voting on this], to unmask at an arbitrary date and time?” one speaker said, according to a livestream from the Facebook page of Amy Dolzine, a school board member-elect.

One parent was confronted by a board member for attempting to record the vote on her phone. She was told she should have requested permission from the superintendent to record the public meeting. An announcement that the school will vote to purchase equipment to record meetings for the public was met with applause.

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Natalie Wolford is managing editor at The Portager. A native of Randolph, she studied film in New York City and is producing a feature-length documentary about her aunt, a small-town journalist.