Mask mandate updates


Abby Ashcraft, ’25, wearing a mask, and Jenna Kerr, ’23, not wearing a mask, talk in the commons. Photo Aarya Arun, ’23.

Following the previous article posted about Illinois school lawsuits on masking and mitigations, a ruling on the case was made and new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols instated. The class action lawsuit filed on Oct., 20, 2021, ruled in favor of the parents, relaxing masking alongside new CDC guidelines.

“The CDC released some new guidance in terms of masks, on schools and buses. And essentially, they’ve made it optional. They also changed their response to and their metrics for what community [COVID-19] spread looks like,” Principal Steve McWilliams said. “On Friday morning, before everything started, we would have been in that window of extensive community spread, but when they released the guidance in the afternoon, we no longer would. It kind of changed the whole perspective of how we look at COVID in a 24 hour period.”

The CDC released new guidelines for masking within schools, based on a community level of COVID-19 which is determined by looking at hospital beds in use, hospital admissions and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in a specific location.

“So in terms of mitigations for the school, we’re still kind of in that phase of, we want to try to give a lot of choice for students, right. So we’re not perfect in terms of especially during lunch periods but we’re still trying to make sure that there’s room for everybody to [be comfortable] particularly until we get outside,” McWilliams said.

As of Feb. 27, masking and mitigation efforts were reduced after a statement was sent out by Superintendent Robert Hunt. Following the initial Feb. 7, statement stating masking was recommended instead of required in all K-12 schools, updates have been made to masking within transportation, which is no longer required as of March 1, 2022.

While masks are optional for students and staff within District 220 schools, mask recommended or required mitigations are dependent on the community level of COVID-19 and local guidelines.

“I think one of the things that we need to do is continue to reinforce amongst ourselves that if you’re not feeling well, if you’ve got a hacking cough, hacking cough is great at home, but it’s not here. Go home, rest, watch some TV, and don’t spread it to everybody else,” McWilliams said.

Students and staff who test positive will continue to isolate for a minimum of five days, per Lake County Health Department guidelines. But contact tracing and excluding close contacts from school were discontinued. The school instated new measures to track COVID-19 and to ensure to manage new outbreaks.

“Ultimately, the number one goal is to try and keep students in school, and keep our programs running. And we’ve done a really nice job of doing that this year. Knock on wood, we haven’t had to shut anything down this year. And that’s what we want to do. We want to keep kids here learning, enjoying being around one another,” McWilliams said.