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Where CPS mask rules stand as Chicago ends mandates on Feb. 28

Chicago Sun-Times Education This Week
Education This Week is our weekly recap of the biggest news in education affecting the Chicago area, Illinois, the region and the nation. Today’s edition was written by Nader Issa, the Sun-Times’ education beat reporter. Follow him on Twitter here.

Despite all the commotion throughout the state the past month, masks aren’t going anywhere at Chicago Public Schools — at least for now.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and City Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady dropped the city’s indoor mask and vaccine requirements effective next week, but the school rules are staying in place — the city’s agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union, which runs through August and requires masks for all students and staff, makes that clear.
And CPS reiterated its stance yesterday: “Chicago Public Schools will keep in place all proven COVID-19 safety mitigation measures, including requiring universal masking by all staff and students. Thanks to these key safety measures, CPS has been able to preserve in-person teaching and learning and provide a safe environment for students and staff.
"We have made great progress in recent weeks against this virus, and we do not want to jeopardize that progress by moving too quickly. 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.”
Those safety measures are expected to be etched in stone today through a resolution at the Board of Education meeting affirming the district’s pandemic protocols, such as universal masking, testing of unvaccinated staff and quarantines for those exposed to the virus.
There’s a wrinkle, though: CPS CEO Pedro Martinez is due in court later this week after Mount Greenwood parents accused the district and their school’s principal of violating a judge’s order that temporarily halted Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s statewide school mask mandate. That judge could tell Martinez to drop CPS’ requirements, or at the very least allow the children of the parents involved in the lawsuit to go to school maskless.
In the end, this is causing a huge mess for families and schools and, at this point in the pandemic, is an unnecessary distraction for kids who have already dealt with so much over the past two years. Parents and teachers are focused on whether kids will have masks on instead of how they’re being supported at school. And there’s newfound anxiety from educators and families about maskless children, particularly those in communities with low vaccination rates, spreading the virus.
That’s not to mention the fights, insults and even threats that have permeated this issue, or that us reporters are busy writing about pandemic protocols two years in when there are much more pressing topics that could use our attention and that families want to know — as is clear in the Nieman Lab article linked below.
For now, make sure you check out our latest stories, including really uplifting news from my WBEZ colleague Sarah Karp about thousands of CPS students receiving full college scholarships from a non-profit run by former schools chief Janice Jackson. And of course keep an eye on our Sun-Times Education homepage for coverage of today’s school board meeting.
Until next week,
Nader Issa, Sun-Times Education reporter
Got a question you’d like me to look into? Respond to this email or send an email to audience@suntimes.com and your question may be answered in an upcoming newsletter!
Chicago lifting mask and vaccine mandates on Feb. 28 but will keep masks in schools for now
Thousands of CPS students — and some parents — to get full college scholarships: ‘This is life changing’
Mask mandates now up to local school districts as Pritzker takes case to state Supreme Court
What I’ve been reading this week
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Nader Issa

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