Gabi and Belle Wine with their mother, Stephanie Mullins-Wine.

Gabi and Belle Wine may share the same birthday, but they don’t share the same opinion about masks in school.

This was the first day of “mask optional” at Evanston/Skokie District 65, and Stephanie Mullins-Wine, the third-grade twins’ mom, walked them through the morning snow to Lincoln Elementary School.

Because of sharp decline in COVID-19 cases, and the very high vaccination rate in Evanston, Mullins-Wine left it up to her children (who are fully vaccinated) whether they’ll cover their mouths and noses in school or not.

Gabi said “no,” explaining “I like to breathe!”

But Belle said she will continue to mask up, because “I want to stay safe.”

Mullins-Wine said she’s comfortable enough with the low COVID positity rate and the mildness of most infections should one happen, that we “can’t live in a bubble” any more.

It was an issue that other District 65 parents and guardians also had to consider, either deciding on masks for their children or by giving them an option.

And a dad told Evanston Now that he was leaving it up to his child.

But a different parent, Mariah Clavijo said her three children, in grades 1, 3, and 4, will continue to wear masks.

“We’re still in a pandemic,” Clavijo noted. “I still want to be on the safe side.”

Desiree Maxwell shared that opinion. Dropping off her daughter at Lincoln, Maxwell said the first-grader will wear a mask at least for awhile, “to see how things go over the next few weeks.”

Superintendent Devon Horton said the district “highly recommend[s]” mask wearing in school, but has dropped the requirement after consultation with medical advisors and school employee unions.

Children enter Lincoln School on first day of mask optional policy. (Jeff Hirsh photos)

District 65 will continue to make masks available at school buildings for students and staff.

Masks do remain a requirement at the Early Childhood Center and at Park therapeutic school.

Evanston Township High School removed its mask mandate on Feb. 28, however, the district indicated that most students and teachers continued to wear them.

Both local districts have said masks could be required again if there is another major spike in COVID cases.

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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