Chicago public schools keep masks in place as city, parochial schools end mandate
Chicago Public Schools’ Board of Education said vaccination rates have it keeping students and staff in masks Feb. 28 and beyond. Parents are asking what it will take to see classrooms without masks. More private schools are taking off masks.
Chicago Public Schools Board of Education President Miguel del Valle said city schools will stay masked because vaccination rates are far lower than in the city as a whole, meaning masks come off Feb. 28 for Chicagoans but masks stay on for public schools.
But Feb. 28 is bringing mask freedom for some Chicago students: More parochial students are removing masks then.
What wasn’t mentioned at the CPS board meeting Feb. 23 was universal masking is also part of the COVID-19 agreement between the district and the Chicago Teachers Union. They reached that deal after the union in January refused to let teachers work for five days, keeping students out of classes.
At the same time, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced masks are no longer required at Catholic schools in Chicago, Evanston and Oak Park starting Feb. 28. The decision was made using declining student and staff infection numbers, which showed only 10% of schools have at least one case of COVID-19.
Nancy Griffin is the co-founder of the Chicago Parents Collective, a group that advocated for in-person classes. She and other CPS parents are now asking what numbers will be used to end masking in schools.
“Vaccination rates for children has been mentioned multiple times today, but does CPS have a number we need to hit in order to decrease mitigation? While vaccinations help, is it a mandate for families in order to move forward?” Griffin asked the board.
CPS CEO Pedro Martinez, who holds the authority to change district COVID-19 policies, predicted masks will eventually be optional, but are staying on for now. Martinez will have to defend his rationale on mask rules Feb. 25 in Sangamon County Circuit Court.
Board members conceded CPS should provide specifics on the decision-making about COVID-19 rules.
“I do think it’s reasonable to ask us … what are the metrics that the district is considering?” board member Elizabeth Todd-Breland said.
CPS reported 90% of school staff are fully vaccinated, 53% of students ages 12 and older, but only about one-third of students between 5 and 11 have at least one shot.