After new CDC guidance, here's where suburban school districts stand on masks

Despite the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending schools start the year with everyone wearing masks indoors, many suburban school districts have yet to change course on decisions that make protective face coverings optional.

School boards in Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211, Kaneland Unit District 302, St. Charles Unit District 303, Geneva Unit District 304, Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 and Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200, among others, voted to make masks optional. That was in spite of earlier CDC advice that unvaccinated students and staff members be required to wear masks indoors.

None have reversed those decisions in the face of the CDC's stricter guidelines announced Tuesday. In some cases, the districts have told parents they are aware of the CDC's recommendations.

"We will review all guidelines and our local data, and will provide updated information to our community prior to the start of the school year," District 25 Superintendent Lori Bein wrote to parents last week.

The district's school board doesn't meet again until Aug. 12.

District 303 administrators asked parents to fill out a survey about masks after the CDC's announcement. The board next meets Aug. 9.

Other districts have remained mum. District 304 board members voted to make masks "no longer mandated" at their July 22 meeting. The board is scheduled to meet again Aug. 9.

The District 302 administration hasn't provided any updates to the school board's Monday decision making masks optional. That board also meets again Aug. 9.

Board members in District 200 voted to make masks optional more than two weeks ago, but Superintendent Jeff Schuler said in a letter to parents late last week the district was reevaluating that stance.

"I understand that our school community has questions about what this updated guidance means for the upcoming school year," he wrote. "I ask for your understanding as we review and process these updates."

District 200's board meets again Aug. 18, five days before school starts.

District 211 officials have also not provided any update since the board voted to make masks optional in the high school district where most, if not all, students and staff and faculty members are eligible for vaccines. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is approved for ages 12 and up. The District 211 board's next scheduled meeting is Aug. 19.

The Barrington Unit District 220 board indicated students in prekindergarten through fifth grade "will begin the school year wearing masks indoors." That board is slated to meet again Aug. 10.

Some school boards voted to make masks optional even after the CDC updated its recommendations last week to advise universal masking in schools. The Northwest Suburban High School District 214 boards both voted in favor of optional masks Thursday. Lake Zurich Unit District 95 is requiring masks for younger grades and advising them for unvaccinated students is grades seven through 12.

However, the largest suburban school district, Elgin Area U-46, is mandating masks to start the school year.

"Effective immediately, I am reinstituting the requirement that masks be worn in all schools and departments by employees, students and visitors - regardless of vaccination status - within all U-46 buildings," U-46 Superintendent Tony Sanders told parents in the district Tuesday after the CDC's guidance was announced.

The U-46 board meets again Aug. 9.

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