Students and staff in Evanston/Skokie District 65 will no longer have to wear masks inside school buildings, starting March 7.
In a message to the community, Superintendent Devon Horton says the district is shifting its mask policy from mandatory to “highly recommended” for grades K-8.
Horton says the decision is based on the declining number of COVID-19 cases along with high vaccination rates in the district, and is in line with mandates being lifted by the City of Evanston and Evanston Township High School.
However, unlike ETHS, which is dropping its mandate on February 28 (as is the city), District 65 is waiting until March 7.
Horton says the longer timeline gives families and teachers a chance to “socialize this idea with students.”
He also notes that “this is going to be a significant change for children and adults alike,” and everyone impacted needs to get comfortable with the transition.
“While some members of our community will be excited about the shift,” the superintendent says, “it may cause anxiety and stress for others.”
Horton notes that about one-third of District 65’s students have only attended schools while wearing masks due to the length of the ongoing pandemic.
He also says that should COVID-19 start to significantly increase, an indoor mask requirement could go in place once again.
Despite the mandate being lifted, Horton says students and staff can still wear masks at school if they wish, and each school will provide them if requested.
Masks still will be required for kids and employees at the Joseph E. Hill Early Childhood Center and at Park School.
Face coverings will also still be mandated for staff at Rice Children’s Center, and recommended for students there.
Horton says mask requirements will stay in place at those locations to make sure they are “aligned to guidance issued for daycares and early childhood programs,” as well as providing “special consideration” for “medically fragile students at Park School.”