Feb 7, 2022 - COVID

Chicago schools resist mask ruling

Illustration of a question mark wearing a mask.

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

A downstate judge ruled Friday that Illinois districts can't make students wear masks in school as part of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's mask mandate.

Why it matters: The CDC officially recommends universal masking in schools for everyone regardless of vaccination status. Meanwhile, less than half of the CPS student body is vaccinated.

Yes, but: CPS officials say masks are still mandatory, as the ruling "does not prohibit CPS from exercising its authority to continue its COVID-19 mitigation policies."

  • The CTU agrees with CPS (wait, these two agree on something?) and notes that the ruling does not supersede labor contracts such as the CPS-CTU January safety agreement requiring masking.

The other side: Some districts, including Arlington Heights, are today going "mask-optional" but calling their schools a "mask recommended environment."

What we're watching: Chicago Catholic Schools superintendent Greg Richmond on Saturday emailed parents saying they "will continue the current mask policy for now."

  • But outside Chicago, at least one Catholic school president in the Springfield Diocese announced that masks were recommended, "however not a requirement."

What's next: Gov. Pritzker has asked the attorney general's office to immediately appeal the decision.

  • "The grave consequence of this misguided decision is that schools in these districts no longer have sufficient tools to keep students and staff safe while COVID-19 continues to threaten our communities — and this may force schools to go remote," Pritzker said in a statement.

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