Riverside School District 96 Board of Education member Shari Klyber read the following statement regarding the decision to change the district’s masking policy without first discussing it publicly at the school board’s March 2 meeting.

I’d like to read a statement. What I have to say is actually not my opinion on the district’s mask policy. It is to share my concerns about transparent board discussion.

The process that led to the change in policy was, in my opinion, not appropriate or consistent with the goals of the Open Meetings Act to conduct the people’s business openly.

This board met on February 16th, addressed the mask issue, and agreed to revisit it on March 2nd at our next public meeting.

However, last Thursday, February 24th, I was told by the board president that “We are all in consensus in favor of repealing the mask mandate” and also “We are going to repeal it.” He further told me that “We would not like to wait” and that the meeting will be on Monday.

Neither the superintendent nor the board president had asked me to give my opinion about the mandate, which I hadn’t even decided, or about whether I could attend a meeting Monday. The public certainly didn’t know any of this. This was before our district’s weekly COVID testing data (due to come out the next day). No guidance from the CDC, the state, or ISBE had come out yet. This was a complete surprise to me and I was shocked that the board would decide on these actions out of the public eye and without public discussion, as was promised at the prior meeting.

What is most disturbing to me is the fact that families who wrote in about their concerns were told that the board was committed to revisit the issue March 2nd with thoughtful discussion, when in reality, the decision seems to already have been made. The specific reasons as to why the Monday meeting was never held, I do not know. The superintendent’s abrupt decision on Saturday morning to override the board’s policy and act contrary to the communication to the families the night before was made without my feedback.

Most importantly, I do not understand why I was told Thursday that the board would vote to repeal before any public discussion and before many of the metrics we had said we wanted to see were released.

I can only guess that there were phone calls relaying information or some kind of walking quorum. I strongly believe that our goal should always be to strive for public discussion and public actions.

I will not be voting on tonight’s resolution which supplants the motion from February 16 because I do not wish to support a process that was significantly flawed.