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Governor Pritzker Orders Universal Masking in All PreK-12 Schools

Coronavirus K-12 Education

Focused on providing a safe learning environment for in-person instruction, Governor Pritzker announced that all individuals in all PreK-12 schools and daycare settings in Illinois must wear a mask when indoors, regardless of vaccination status. This requirement also extends to indoor school athletic activities.  Athletes and other individuals participating in and attending outdoor school athletic events may remain unmasked. 

When questioned, the Governor acknowledged that some students with medical conditions may be exempt from the mask mandate. It is our recommendation that schools develop protocols for reviewing and consistently assessing such requestsAs for staff, the Governor recommended that school districts work out the details of the mandate at the bargaining table with unions.

To support schools in implementing this mandate, he emphasized that masks will be made available for all schools that need them from the State and encouraged schools to test students regularly, and to take advantage of free COVID-19 testing being offered by the State. The Governor cautioned that schools could face legal liability for not following the universal mask mandate and that ISBE could remove recognition status.

Notably, according to the Governor, a return to remote learning “is not on the table.” Exactly what remote instruction must be provided to students who are under a quarantine order and are not vaccinated is not yet clear from ISBE.

The Executive Order that followed the press conference states that schools must follow the joint ISBE/IDPH guidance and take proactive safety measures including:  

  1. Requiring the indoor use of face coverings by students, staff, and visitors who are over age two and able to medically tolerate a face covering, regardless of vaccination status; and 
  2. Implementing other layered prevention strategies (such as physical distancing, screening testing, ventilation, handwashing, and respiratory etiquette, advising individuals to stay home when sick and get tested, contact tracing in combination with appropriate quarantine and isolation, and cleaning and disinfection) to the greatest extent possible and taking into consideration factors such as community transmission, vaccination coverage, screening testing, and occurrence of outbreaks, consistent with CDC guidance.

In light of the Governor’s Order, Dr. Ayala issued a statement acknowledging that IDPH and ISBE will be issuing updated guidance to reflect the new statewide mandate. We will be discussing this and more COVID-related topics at our Fall 2021 reopening webinar tomorrow