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CHICAGO — The Archdiocese of Chicago announced Wednesday that masks will be optional beginning Thursday for some schools.

The news comes after Queen of Martyrs Catholic School principal Doc Mathius was removed for preemptively making the same call, telling WGN News that while he hasn’t officially been fired, he anticipates he’ll be relieved of his duties.

In a letter to families, Supt. Greg Richmond said in part,

“We have determined that coronavirus cases in our communities and in our schools are now low enough to make masks optional in our schools,” he said in a statement. “Currently, we have no classrooms in quarantine anywhere in our Archdiocese and we have no schools that have more than 3% of their students currently testing positive. In fact, nearly half of our schools are reporting no cases at all. This has been a dramatic drop within the past few weeks.”

However, Richmond said some Catholic schools are located in places where lawful orders of local health departments still require masks. The Archdiocese said they will continue to require masks in these schools.

According to the letter, beginning this Thursday, in Lake County and most of suburban Cook County (excluding Oak Park and Evanston), masks will be optionalThe Archdiocese is waiting to implement this for a day in order to give principals, teachers and staff time to prepare.

In the City of Chicago, Oak Park and Evanston, masks will still be required because local health departments have issued lawful orders that require them. The Archdiocese said they are complying with those orders and will lift the mask mandate when possible.

Any staff member or student who wishes to continue to wear a mask in school is encouraged to do so, according to the letter.

Read the full letter below:

Dear School Families,
 
This past weekend, I wrote to let you know that we were evaluating COVID protocols in our Catholic schools in light of a recent court decision and rapidly declining cases in our schools. I said that this could take a little time and asked for your patience as we work through all the issues. I also wrote that, when conditions allowed, we would make masks optional in our schools.

Tonight, I am writing to let you know that we have determined that coronavirus cases in our communities and in our schools are now low enough to make masks optional in our schools.

Currently, we have no classrooms in quarantine anywhere in our Archdiocese and we have no schools that have more than 3% of their students currently testing positive. In fact, nearly half of our schools are reporting no cases at all. This has been a dramatic drop within the past few weeks.

However, some of our schools are located in places where lawful orders of local health departments still require masks in our schools. We have decided to proceed with a mask optional policy in places where masks are not mandated by local health authorities and to continue to require masks in schools where they are still required by local health authorities.

In Lake County and most of suburban Cook County, masks will be optional beginning this Thursday, February 10 (excluding Oak Park and Evanston)We are waiting to implement this for a day in order to give our principals, teachers, and staff time to prepare.

In the City of Chicago, Oak Park and Evanston, masks will still be required because local health departments have issued lawful orders that require them. We are complying with those orders and will lift the mask mandate when we can.

In schools where masks will be optional, all our other COVID protocols will continue in place just as they are now. Also, in schools where masks are optional, students coming out of isolation and quarantine must wear a mask on Days 6 through 10. In addition, we will continue monitoring cases in our schools closely and, if we see significant increases in a classroom or an entire school, we may temporarily return to masks until those numbers go back down.

Any staff member or student who wishes to continue to wear a mask in school is encouraged to do so. We support all school families and employees in whichever decision they make regarding the regular use of masks. Individuals who wish to wear a mask are encouraged to use an N95 mask and we encourage everyone age 5 and above to receive the COVID-19 vaccine/booster.

We also understand that some school communities as a whole may feel differently about the change to a mask-optional environment. For those communities, we will work with their principals to address the interests of their schools.

Peace be with you,
Greg Richmond
Superintendent of Schools

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