While the city will roll back its mask mandates in coming days, Chicago Public Schools says that it will keep its requirements in place for at least the time-being.
According to a statement from CPS, the requirements are being kept in place to help “preserve in-person teaching,” and to keep students and educators safe.
“We have made great progress in recent weeks against this virus, and we do not want to jeopardize that progress by moving too quickly,” a spokesperson said. “We look forward to the day when we can be mask-optional at CPS, but we still need to get more students vaccinated across our district, and we still need to work with our public health and labor partners on the best way to preserve a safe in-person learning environment for all.”
According to CPS officials, nearly 53% of students age 12 and older are now fully-vaccinated against COVID, while nearly 1-in-3 students under the age of 12 has received at least one dose of the vaccine.
More than 91% of teachers are fully vaccinated, according to officials.
In a press release Tuesday, the Chicago Teachers Union praised the decision to keep mask mandates in place.
“We’re glad that CPS will continue to honor the safety agreement that our members sacrificed four days of pay for last month,” the statement read. “This agreement today provides Chicago’s public school communities with the legal right to guarantee safety, despite a right-wing legal attack to remove public health protections.”
The union said that it will continue to push for more vaccination clinics for students and for educators, and that it agrees with the governor that COVID case rates need to continue to decline before mask-optional policies are enacted in Chicago schools.
The news of the mitigation rollback comes as many Illinois school districts move to mask-optional rules amid an ongoing legal fight over whether the state has the legal authority to require facial coverings in schools. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has appealed recent rulings that say he does not have the authority to issue those mandates, and is aiming to keep requirements in place even as the state moves away from required masking.
On Feb. 28, the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois will eliminate requirements for patrons in indoor venues to wear masks. The city will also move away from its requirement that patrons in those establishments furnish a proof-of-vaccination at the door, according to officials.