At least one Chicago-area school switched to remote learning on Friday after hearing about possible protests planned by students and parents over a mask requirement in the classroom.
Hampshire High School in District 300, switched to online learning to ‘avoid disruption’ of protests urging schools to adopt a ‘mask optional’ policy after a southern Illinois judge issued a ruling. ordinance preventing the enforcement of the statewide face-covering requirement in the classroom.
At Libertyville High School, parent Kim Bissing said his daughter showed up to school on Monday without a face mask and was sent to the gym.
The district said students refusing to wear a mask met with principals and were given the choice of covering their faces and going to class, leaving school and asking a parent to report them absent, or to stay in the gymnasium or in a designated learning area.
The governor instructed Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul to file a notice of appeal on Monday challenging the temporary restraining order issued by the Sangamon County judge.
Pritzker called Judge Raylene Grischow’s decision “out of step with the vast majority of legal analysis”, saying it “creates chaos for parents, families, teachers and school administrators“.
In the decision issued in response to a lawsuit filed by a group of parents and teachers in more than 140 school districts, Grischow also determined several other Pritzker emergency orders to combat the spread of COVID, including a issued last year which makes vaccinations compulsory for school employees, are “null and void”.
Pritzker said he ordered Raoul to seek to have the decision overturned “with all possible speed”. Raoul filed a notice stating that the defendants — the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Department of Public Health and their leaders, and Pritzker — intend to appeal , but the process could take weeks or months.
On Wednesday, Pritzker revealed plans to lift Illinois’ indoor mask mandate, excluding schools, by Feb. 28, noting that the state “is experiencing the fastest rate of decline in our COVID-19 hospitalization measures since the start of the pandemic. ”
He did, however, note an important caveat.
“I want to be clear: many jurisdictions, local businesses and organizations have their own requirements for masks and other mitigations that must be followed,” he said. “Having stricter mitigation measures than state requirements is something that must be adhered to. Doing the right thing in your private business or for your local communities is encouraged. Whether you are a business, a township, a place, a place of worship or a city – to name a few examples – the protection of your customers and visitors is undoubtedly a top priority. Masks continue to be a very effective way of preventing your establishment from knowing an epidemic or to spread disease.”
The lifting of the mandate will not apply to schools, Pritzker said.
“School outbreaks affect hundreds or even thousands of people in a community – and there are many more infections when districts are mask-free. Schools are different from most other environments – there are higher rates of much lower vaccinations for school-aged children than adults, higher daily exposure to younger children who are not yet eligible for the vaccine, and more difficulty maintaining distance in hallways and gymnasiums. The equation for schools just looks different right now than for the general population Schools need more time – for community infection rates to come down, for our youngest learners to become eligible for the vaccine, and for that more parents get their children vaccinated.”
The governor said plans for school masking requirements are expected to be announced “in the coming weeks.”
“I hope and expect that we continue to move towards a place where we can remove school masking requirements and keep children in school,” he said.
According to the governor’s office, Illinois will continue to require masks in the following settings:
Both the governor and the state’s top doctor have pointed to boosters as a way to increase protection against the virus and reduce risk.