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.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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  1. In response to the story regarding d65 lifting the mask mandate. Dr. Horton says that the decision was made after consultation with local health departments among his claimed sources however in an email sent 1 day earlier from Mayor Daniel Biss, Biss says that whole mask mandates are being lifted in some public places the Evanston health department still recommends that masks be worn in schools and areas of crowds. Northwestern has decided to wait until after spring break to lift the mandate. Now that families are finally beginning to get comfortable and possibly planning to take a trip, why would we just pull the mandate and potentially spoil that for everyone? What prompted the sudden change against the government’s science-based order? Was it the court case alleging a freedom violation, not based on science?
    Why didn’t Doctor Horton consider consulting with the community that has been highly in support of mitigation strategies and has one of the lowest transmission rates in the country?
    Why would we need a week to talk to our kids about the change if the recommended is “highly recommended”
    At the least, they should have consulates with the community, and wait until after the break or when windows could be opened, etc. similar to the strategy at Northwestern.
    This strategy prompted by several districts in most republican communities, filed by republican lawyers fighting that their freedom was being violated, is now impacting the children and families in our community who didn’t join the suit.

  2. We have choices, we have freedoms, we have risks, we have rewards. Time for everyone to make their own decisions. We know the risks – we’re 2 years into this, we know what to do now. If people don’t like what you choose to do then that’s their problem.

    Respect everyones decisions and live together. Stop politicizing this and calling it “republican policies”. Stop shaming people for thinking the opposite of you. Isn’t that what Evanston is all about or is it only if we agree with you? Interesting.

    If you want to wear a mask, wear a mask. If you don’t want to wear one, then don’t wear one. If you want your kid(s) to wear a mask then have them wear one. If you don’t want them to wear one, then tell them they don’t have to if they don’t want to.

    – Frank Sabotka

    PS: I am vaccinated and have gotten covid, definitely once probably twice. I am alive, healthy and happy. I rarely wear masks and it’s liberating. If a store requires masks, I wear one, I respect their policies.

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