Schools Continue to Grapple With Masking Decisions After Judge's Ruling

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More than a week after the ruling first came down, districts continue to grapple with how to respond to a downstate judge's temporary restraining order on mask mandates in Illinois schools as a requirement remains in effect across the state.

The debate over whether or not to abide by the state mandate or make masks optional has sparked concerns on both sides, but the threat of demonstrations has left some schools switching remote.

A rally is planned in Wilmett's District 39 Monday, with some students hoping to encourage school officials to make masks optional ahead of a Board of Education meeting on the subject.

Lockport Township High School District 205 announced over the weekend that it will make masks optional starting Monday.

Elsewhere, some schools have chosen to switch to remote learning over reports of demonstrations and protests.

Students who attend Fremont School District 79 in suburban Mundelein will participate in remote learning starting Monday as the district shifts to online instruction.

In a letter posted on the district's website, leaders announced an "adaptive pause" will be implemented Monday and will remain in place until further notice.

If protests were to occur, the district said, they "would create a substantial disruption to the learning environment and would negatively impact our ability to deliver education to our students."

A mask requirement remains in place districtwide in accordance with Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker's executive order mandating masks in schools, which remains in effect until March 6.

Confusion ensued late last week when school districts were forced to decide whether they should continue to require masks after a downstate Illinois judge implemented a temporary restraining order, declaring Pritzker's mask mandate "null and void."

The governor instructed Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul to file a notice of appeal challenging the order.

On Wednesday, Pritzker revealed plans to lift Illinois' indoor mask mandate, with the exception of in schools, by Feb. 28, noting that the state is "seeing the fastest rate of decline in our COVID-19 hospitalization metrics since the pandemic began."

However, he said mandates implemented by local governments, businesses and organizations must respected.

In its letter to the school community, Fremont district officials said "we must continue to make student learning and safety our primary focus" and asked parents to help ensure its schools remain welcoming environments.

"Our schools cannot become battle grounds for differing adult opinions," the letter continued.

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