Chicago's Board of Education reiterated its decision Wednesday to continue requiring masks in public school classrooms even as the city plans to lift its indoor mask mandate along with the rest of Illinois at the end of February.
"It's great to see that the metrics are going in the right direction, however, on behalf of the board, I want to reiterate our commitment to masking at this time," Board President Miguel Del Valle said.
Board members added that masking rules will stay in place for students and staff for now with no current end date.
"Masks are not oppressing anyone. Oppression and systemic inequality is what has actually caused the disproportionate impact of COVID along lines of race and class."
Those decisions did not sit well with some parents at the board meeting.
"Our kids who are the least vulnerable to the pandemic are going to be stuck in classrooms still trying to struggle to be heard, to speak and to play with masks on," said Nick Kryczka, a parent with the Stay in School Coalition.
Those in attendance made it clear they are not anti-mask but rather anti-mandate. Parents told NBC 5 they would like the right to chose what's best for their children.
"I am anti-force, and a lot of people like to use that term anti-mask; it is anti-force. We do have freedoms here in these United States of America, and we should have options," Jessica Venegas, a concerned parent, said.
The mask mandate will remain in place as part of an agreement between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union. The agreement was reached after a four-day walkout in January amid the omicron surge. The board did not eliminate the possibility of dropping the mandate in the near future.
"Absent of a new variant, there will be a point in time in the near future, I think, when we will be able to go mask optional," Del Valle said.