Local schools are beginning to confirm their plans for COVID-19 mitigation measures to start the 2021-22 school year following a mandate from Illinois’ top lawmaker.
Wilmette’s Loyola Academy announced Thursday, Aug. 5, that it will reinstate its masking requirement “effective immediately.” The school’s stance comes one day after Gov. JB Pritzker said all students in preschool through 12th grade must wear masks indoors to start the school year, regardless of their vaccination status.
Loyola officials said in a statement that the mandate applies to students, faculty, staff and visitors, adding that “masks must already be in place when entering the building.”
“We will continue to monitor conditions in our community and guidance provided by IDPH and communicate any updates in a timely manner,” school officials said in the statement.
In July, Loyola announced that masks were recommended but not required for vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals while on campus.
The Township’s public high school, New Trier, has yet to solidify its safety plans for the upcoming school year, but the district’s board of education will hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 11.
No public agenda for the meeting was available as of publication time.
In a statement issued to The Record on Aug. 4 — after Pritzker’s decision was widely reported but not yet official — school officials remained reticent.
“We are still finalizing our 2021-2022 Operational Plan, including COVID-19 mitigation protocols, and plan to announce it next week,” Niki Dizon, the district’s director of communications, told The Record via email. “We will await any updated state guidance.”
Many of the elementary schools districts in The Record’s coverage area have not met in weeks, and in some cases, months, leaving little opportunity for officials to finalize safety guidelines.
Glencoe School District 35 will have the first opportunity to offer its stance on the matter as the board of education is slated to meet at 7 p.m. Aug. 5.
The Avoca School District 37 board is scheduled to meet Aug. 12, while Winnetka D36 is set for Aug. 17 and the Wilmette Public Schools board of education’s committee of the whole is set for Aug. 18. Kenilworth D38 will meet Aug. 17 while Sunset Ridge District 29 will meet Aug. 16.
Pritzker’s announcement puts Illinois schools in line with recent guidance issued by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. That guidance, issued at the end of June, suggested that all teachers, students and staff in schools wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
“My goal has always been to safely bring all kids back into the classroom at the start of the school year and … to keep them there,” Pritzker said in a press conference Wednesday, adding that “without these measures, we would likely see many more outbreaks than” schools experienced last year.
As previously reported by The Record, the governor’s mandate also includes all indoor recreation, meaning athletes must wear a mask while participating in indoor sports.
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Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.