Governor keeps masks on at schools, for now.


photo by Andolo Abwe

Students walking to and from classes.

UPDATE: RPS205 has lifted the mask mandates for all students and staff, after an appellate court rejected Governor J.B. Pritzker’s appeal to reinstate Illinois’ mask mandate for schools, as well as a testing mandate for unvaccinated staff. The original article appears below.

Governor J.B. Pritzker announced the relaxing of the indoor mask mandate starting Feb. 28, but students will have to wait a little longer to take theirs off in schools.

On Feb. 9, the governor held a press conference announcing the lifting of the restriction, which is subject to hospitalization metrics continuing on their current track.

“We are now seeing the fastest rate of decline in our COVID-19 hospitalization metrics since the pandemic began. If these trends continue , and we expect them to, then on Monday, February 28th, we will lift the indoor mask requirement for the State of Illinois,” said Governor JB Pritzker in a press conference on Feb. 9.

However, schools will not be included in the relaxation of the mandate, as the state cites 56% of 12-15 year olds and 23% of 5-11 year olds being fully vaccinated, as well as children ages five and under are not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Dr. Seth Trueger, an emergency physician at Northwestern Medicine, says that “Continuing to protect children and reduce spread in schools and congregate care settings while cautiously phasing out mask requirements in public spaces as case rates decline and hospital capacity increases, is a commonsense, science-based approach.”

Schools are also among other areas where masks will still be required, such as healthcare settings, long term healthcare facilities, prisons, shelters, and daycare settings. Masks will also be required on buses, airplanes, and trains, as per federal mandate by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

It comes however as the state appeals a ruling by Judge Raylene DeWitte Grischow that made masks optional across the state, with mixed decisions being made in school districts across the state.

While other school districts, like the Kinnikinnick School District just lifting the mandate last night, others, such as the Rockford School District, still has a mandate in place, even though students not wearing a mask are currently not facing punishment.

RPS205 said on Feb. 7 that they were in communication with the Winnebago County Health Department and the school board regarding the decision, with Superintendent Ehren Jarrett meeting with principals later in the day to discuss.

The district added “If any messages need to be shared with staff and families, we will share them through our normal communication channels.”