CU-Covid19EducationPublic Health

Champaign elementary students grapple with masks, vaccines

Cesar Sanchez / For CU-CitizenAccess

For one Champaign Unit 4 school parent, vaccinating his child is important. 

“How can you go against science?” Daniel Martinez said. “I lost my wife to COVID when she refused to receive the vaccine, I’m not going to let my children do the same thing.”

Kenwood Elementary School is one of the many schools in Champaign Unit 4 District to return to in-person classes this year and with the availability of vaccines for younger students, many parents are weighing the pros and cons.

“How do I know if it’s safe for my child?” said Geoff Hamilton, guardian of a student at Kenwood. “I understand that it’s safe for older individuals, but we heard stories of it going wrong for them, I can’t trust it for my kids.” 

According to the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District in early December, 68% of Champaign County’s population has received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 61% of the population are fully vaccinated. 

The County is also ahead of the state percentages as of Dec. 21 for vaccinations among ages 5 to 11. 

36% of Champaign’s population between the ages 5 to 11 have received at least one dose of the vaccine, giving Champaign the third-highest percentage out of all the counties in the state of Illinois. 

24% of the ages 5-11 population are fully vaccinated in the county, the third-highest percentage out of all counties of Illinois. Lake County has the highest percentage with 25%.

The return to in-person learning across the district has also brought further restrictions. 

Since the beginning of September, Illinois has issued an indoor mask mandate. In response, Champaign Unit 4 School District changed their guidelines to require masks indoors regardless of the individual’s vaccination status. 

That hasn’t bothered students one bit, said one school official.  

“Our students have adjusted very well to our guidelines,” said Stacey Moore, Kenwood’s chief communications officer. 

In the guidelines handbook found on Champaign Unit 4’s website, the handbook states that the district is committed to keeping their environment safe: 

“The District is committed to continuing to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (CUPHD), and Executive Orders issued by the Governor of the State of Illinois. 

“It’s very important for us to keep our students and staff safe which is why we follow the guidelines very strictly.” Moore said. 

Cesar Sanchez / For CU-CitizenAccess

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