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An appeals court ruling against Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s indoor mask mandate for schools leaves Illinois districts, including 65 and 202 in Evanston, trying to figure out what to do next.

While the appeals panel refused on Thursday to reinstate the mandate, the court also said that individual school systems can still require masks on their own.

Evanston Now has seen a message sent by Marcus Campbell, principal at Evanston Township High School, about potential next steps.

The message, to ETHS staff members, says that District 202 has been in touch with Evanston/Skokie District 65, the city’s Health Department, and the district’s attorneys “regarding the legal implications of this ruling.”

The message also says ETHS officials have “discussed what options we may have for continued … mitigations in our school” to prevent of the spread of COVID-19.

Campbell says there will be an optional staff meeting on Tuesday afternoon to update the employees on “what this court ruling means for ETHS.”

As for District 65, spokesperson Melissa Messinger says that district is working on a response, and will publicize it once the review is completed.

As of now, both local school systems still require masks indoors. That’s because an earlier decision against masks, from a lower court in Springfield, only applied to about 150 districts named as defendants. Neither 65 nor 202 are among those districts.

The appeals court refused to overturn the lower court decision. Gov. Pritzker is appealing that to the state Supreme Court.

All of the above deals with schools, which the governor says should require masks somewhat longer than other institutions.

But there is a different reality for those other locations.

As long as COVID cases continue to decrease, Pritzker plans to lift the separate mask mandate for restaurants, bars, gyms, and several other types of businesses effective Feb. 28.

In a public statement on that, the city of Evanston “anticipates that if leading COVID metrics continue to improve,” the city’s mask requirement “can be lifted” consistent with the governor’s time frame, “expected to be Feb. 28.” The city’s proof-of-vaccination rule for indoor dining could also be repealed.

An announcement is expected next week. The city says “substantial progress must be observed” in order for the mask and proof-of-vaccination regulations to be lifted.

Adding to the potential confusion, whatever happens in schools and/or other indoor facilities, the federal government still requires masks on airplanes, buses, and trains.

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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