ECC says goodbye to mandatory masks

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Observer staff

On Monday, March 28, mask wearing will become optional for most of the ECC campus. Masks will be mandatory at the Vitality testing site in Building K, certain arts and health classrooms, rooms where faculty are immunocompromised, and during meetings in work spaces when requested.

Dom Di Palermo , Editor-in-Chief

After nearly two years, mask wearing is now optional for most of the Elgin Community College campus, starting Monday, March 28.

ECC announced this change days before spring break on March 14. The school announced their new policies on masks and COVID-19 mitigations, with the major change being that masks wearing is now optional with a few exceptions.

These exceptions say that masks are required in some health profession and art classes. Masks are also required in places where there may be faculty that are immunocompromised. These locations include classrooms, labs, faculty offices, and workrooms. The requirement also stands in personal work and office spaces as well as at the vitality testing site located in Building K.

The email reminded students that the State of Illinois still requires proof of vaccination or weekly testing and that social distancing practice and COVID-19 protocol reporting are still in effect. The email also says to stay home if you are feeling ill.

Dr. Peggy Heinrich, Vice President of Teaching, Learning and Student Development, discussed administration’s feelings toward the new decision.

“The administration is pleased to be able to continue moving safely and progressively back to a more vibrant campus environment,” Heinrich said in an email. “Our commitment is to maintain the safety of our students, employees, and community and we are pleased to be taking a step toward a more ‘normal’ campus environment with that safety still in mind.”

The school first announced the mask mandate removal on Thursday Feb. 10 but after the Elgin Community College Faculty Association (ECCFA) privately raised concerns with administration regarding the changes in the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) without mutual agreement, the school changed course, reinstating the mask mandate.

Following the reinstatement, and new suggestions from governing entities, ECCFA and ECC administration met to negotiate a change to the Memorandum of Agreement.

“An amendment to an existing Memorandum of Agreement with the ECCFA related to the Governor’s COVID mitigations was agreed upon that addressed matters related to the mask mitigation modification,” Heinrich said in an email.” While the SSECCA union similarly requested impact bargaining related to this topic, this request was withdrawn after an initial meeting and discussion. “

ECCFA president, Kim Tarver, and chief negotiator, Dr. Luis Martinez, both explained how ECCFA was involved in the most recent discussion.

“The right of immunocompromised faculty to continue to have the mask mandate in their classroom, and for those specific areas where either students are working with COVID-19 positive patients or where there is not enough space to maintain social distancing, in those cases the faculty could require students to wear their masks,” Martinez said.

“We also wanted to make sure that higher quality masks were available for everybody,” Tarver added.

Both ECC administration and ECCFA compromised on a final goal that would be best for everyone at ECC. ECC administration would like to remind everyone that mask-wearing is advised and there are still areas on campus where masks will remain. Administration would also recommend that people remember that mask-wearing is a personal choice.

“ECC remains committed to the safety of our students, employees, and the community,” Heinrich said. “This remains a fluid situation, and we will continue to watch for modifications to guidance from the governing entities previously mentioned. “