Chicago Public Schools will continue to require face coverings in the classroom, along with other COVID-19 protocols, despite an Illinois appeals court’s rejection of the governor’s appeal on Thursday for mask 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 requiring students who have tested positive or been exposed to the coronavirus to work at residence.
“Our schools will continue to enforce these policies, including mandatory universal masking. These safety measures have allowed us to provide our students with the in-person learning environment they need throughout this school year. We We will continue to follow these protocols until such time as our public health partners advise us that restrictions can be safely lifted,” the CPS said in a statement.
Just before midnight Thursday, a three-member panel of the Illinois Fourth District Court of Appeals denied Governor JB Pritzker’s appeal of a lower court’s ruling against a mask mandate in schools, writing that the request is “not applicable” because the Governor’s emergency COVID-19 rules have already expired.
In their decision, the appeal court judges wrote that there was no “real controversy” to be resolved.
“Because the emergency rules voided by the TRO are no longer in effect, a controversy regarding the application of those rules no longer exists.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 case is moot,” the justices wrote.
The judges also wrote, “We note that the language of the TRO in no way precludes school districts from acting independently of executive orders or IDPH in creating provisions regarding COVID-19.”
The appeals court’s decision hinges on a vote by a bipartisan legislative committee earlier this week not to renew Pritzker’s emergency rules, which first came into effect in September 2021.
On Tuesday, lawmakers who sit on the Joint Administrative Rules Committee voted to temporarily suspend the school mask mandate, three Democrats crossed to vote to end the measure.
On Feb. 4, a Sangamon County judge issued a temporary restraining order that prevented the state from enforcing 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 February 13.
At this point, it is unknown if the Illinois Department of Public Health is able to issue another mask-related mandate for classroom COVID protocols.
Illinois will lift the indoor mask requirement, with some exceptions, by Feb. 28 if the state’s COVID measures continue to drop, Pritzker announced last week. The governor noted, however, that the relaxed mandate would not apply to educational institutions.
“School outbreaks affect hundreds or even thousands of people in a community — and there are many more infections when districts are mask-free,” Pritzker said at a news conference last week.