Illinois public schools update mask mandate

After a recent court ruling, Illinois public schools may no longer require students to wear masks while in school hours.

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Jacob Slabosz

Students of ACHS are no longer required to wear masks while in school.

In light of the recent lawsuit brought by hundreds of parents against Illinois school districts, Judge Raylene Grischow marks Governor Pritzker’s COVID-19 mitigations as “null” and “void.” Grischow’s decision in this lawsuit will block the Illinois school mask mandate for public schools. Chicago public schools still have mitigations due to the high population of the city.

District 117 superintendent Dr. Jim McKay sent out an email to parents on Feb. 6 elaborating on the subject. 

“While masks will not be required, the district continues to strongly recommend masks for all staff and students in our school buildings,” McKay wrote.

Even though masks are not forced to be worn in school, they are still highly recommended. McKay urged those who have been exposed to COVID-19 or who are experiencing symptoms to be considerate to others and consider wearing a face covering. 

“Understandably, not everyone agrees with the approach the district has used to manage this situation,” McKay said. “A similar approach to providing a healthy and safe learning environment is currently being used by many school districts throughout the state.”

The district acknowledges that there will be strong concern from both sides of this new change which went into effect Monday, Feb. 7. 

Dr. Michael Karner, who has recently been appointed as Lake County regional superintendent, shared his thoughts on the new mask mandate update. 

The change occurred very quickly,” Karner said. “This past weekend, all districts in Illinois had to decide on how they wanted to proceed based on Judge Grischow’s ruling.”

Although the situation seemed rushed, districts came to a conclusion in one weekend. The public should expect some controversy in the next few weeks.

Whenever a decision is made, there will be people who agree and disagree,” Karner said. “I know that districts in Lake County have done an exceptional job providing learning for their students during the pandemic.”

Karner, like many others, is unsure what the final outcome will be. Recently, uncertainty has become the norm.

It is still unsure whether the changes will be long or short-term, as the lawsuit is still being processed through court. 

“The attorney general is filing with the appellate court today [Feb. 7],” Karner said. “This could potentially impact school districts. There should be more information forthcoming about the final decision of this outcome.”

The final decision of this lawsuit will come soon and be released to the public; however, students are currently in control of whether they remain masked.