CPS Will Continue to Require Masks in Schools Despite Appellate Court Ruling

Chicago Public Schools will continue to require face coverings in the classroom, as well as other COVID-19 protocols, despite an Illinois appellate court dismissing the governor's appeal Thursday for masks mandates in schools.

In a statement Friday, CPS officials said the district will continue to mandate masks and COVID vaccinations for staff, as well as require students who have tested positive or been exposed to the coronavirus to work from home.

"Our schools will continue to enforce these policies, including mandated universal masking. These safety measures are what have allowed us to provide our students with the in-person learning environment they need throughout this school year. We will continue to follow these protocols until such time as our public health partners advise us that restrictions can be safely lifted," CPS said in a statement.

Just before midnight on Thursday, a three-member panel of the Illinois Fourth District Appellate Court rejected Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s appeal of a lower court's ruling against a mask mandate in schools, writing the request is “moot” because the governor’s emergency COVID-19 rules already expired.

In their decision, the appellate court justices wrote there is no “actual controversy” to decide.

“Because the emergency rules voided by the TRO are no longer in effect, a controversy regarding the application of those rules no longer exists. Thus, the matter is moot,” the justices wrote.

The justices also wrote, “We note the language of the TRO in no way restrains school districts from acting independently from the executive orders or the IDPH in creating provisions addressing COVID-19.”

The decision by the appeals court hinges on a bipartisan legislative committee’s vote earlier this week not to renew Pritzker’s emergency rules, which first took effect in September 2021.

On Tuesday, lawmakers who serve on the Joint Committee of Administrative Rules voted to temporarily suspended the school mask mandate, with three Democrats crossing over to vote to halt the measure.

On Feb. 4, a Sangamon County judge issued a temporary restraining order that blocked the state from enforcing the rules that called for mask mandates and other COVID restrictions in schools.

While the state appealed the judge’s temporary restraining order, the rules expired on Feb. 13.

At this point, it's unclear whether the Illinois Department of Public Health is able to issue another mask-related mandate for COVID protocols in the classroom.

Illinois will lift the indoor mask requirement, with several exceptions, by Feb. 28 if state COVID metrics continue to decline, Pritzker announced last week. The governor noted, however, that the eased mandate would not apply to school settings.

"School outbreaks impact hundreds, even thousands of people across a community – and there are a whole lot more infections when districts are maskless," Pritzker said in a press conference last week.

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