More DuPage County schools requiring students to mask up

A growing number of DuPage County school districts and colleges will require students and employees - vaccinated or not - to wear masks when classes start later this month.

Several elementary school districts are the latest to embrace indoor masking rules, falling in line with state and federal health guidelines.

The school year is fast approaching as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus takes hold across the state, and children under 12 are still not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Here's a rundown of some of the schools and colleges with mask mandates:

Community colleges

All students and faculty at the state's largest community college must wear masks, even if they're vaccinated, for the fall term beginning Aug. 23. The College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn is following new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines urging universal mask-wearing in public indoor settings in areas with substantial or high transmission of the virus.

DuPage County falls under the substantial category, with more than 70 new cases of COVID-19 reported for every 100,000 people over the last week, according to CDC metrics.

Waubonsee Community College also is requiring all employees, students and visitors to mask up indoors on its campuses in Aurora, Sugar Grove and Plano.

Downers Grove Dist. 58

The school board in Downers Grove Elementary District 58 will hold a meeting Wednesday, Aug. 18, on a reopening plan that calls for indoor mask requirements.

"The district will be able to avoid many quarantine situations and significantly reduce the chances of spreading the virus at school by adhering to the current health guidelines," Superintendent Kevin Russell said in a letter to families Tuesday.

The district also provided a copy of a DuPage County Health Department message to school superintendents this week. In that letter, county health authorities sent a clear warning against voluntary face coverings.

"If we don't or can't have vaccination ... and if masking is 'optional' (which is HOW COVID-19 SPREADS, with unvaccinated people within 6 feet who aren't masked for prolonged periods), we will have UNMITIGATED SPREAD," the letter stated, "leading to increased infection and exposures, leading to increased quarantine and absenteeism, possibly leading to school closure."

Glen Ellyn Dist. 41

Glen Ellyn Elementary District 41 will start the new year with mandatory face coverings in schools.

"The science is clear. Masks drastically decrease the spread of COVID," said school board member Julie Hill, who supported the decision. "Masks are an essential part of a layered mitigation approach."

Superintendent Melissa Kaczkowski on Monday attended a conference call with the county health department and other school leaders.

County health officials indicated a pediatric vaccine won't be available until this fall, possibly in October or November, Kaczkowski said.

She recommended that the district develop criteria based on several factors - internal vaccination rates, screening data and countywide metrics - that could allow it to ease universal masking.

"This virus has changed over time and will continue to do so, and we must be able to adapt," Hill said.

Glen Ellyn Dist. 89

The school board in Glen Ellyn Elementary District 89 voted Monday to require all students to wear masks.

If a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available to children younger than 12 or the CDC updates its guidance, the district will revisit mask requirements.

There were no outbreaks or closures due to the spread of COVID-19 in school buildings last year when students had to wear masks, district officials said.

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