D128 moves to “mask recommended” status

Sarah Wuh, Opinions Editor

On Feb. 18, District 128 lifted its mask mandate, moving from “mask required” to “mask recommended” for all students, staff and volunteers.

Effective immediately, masks are not required in classrooms, hallways or at extracurricular activities in the school. Federal mandates require that students continue to wear masks on school transportation and driver’s education vehicles.

D128 originally planned to propose the removal of the mask requirement on Feb. 28. This decision aligned with the Illinois Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) timeline to make masks optional for other public spaces. 

However, the dismissal of Gov. JB Pritzker’s request to uphold the statewide school mask mandate by the 4th District Appellate Court late Thursday night accelerated the schedule. 

This ruling cited Tuesday’s 9-0 vote of the Illinois General Assembly’s bipartisan Joint Committee on Administrative Rules that blocked the renewal of the IDPH’s emergency school mask mandate. 

The D128 administration met early this morning in response to the development, acting quickly to notify the D128 community of the lifted mandate via email. Dr. Koulentes also made a PA announcement during first period to ensure that all students were aware of the change.

 “We recommend [masks] because the COVID-19 numbers are still out there,” LHS principal Dr. Tom Koulentes said. “Wearing a mask is helpful, but if you don’t want to, you don’t have to anymore. It is now optional, essentially.”

The “D128 Culture of Care Comprehensive Plan” was updated to reflect the switch to mask-recommended, with an added note that “it is important for everyone to be respectful and sensitive to the individual needs of our families and staff during this time of change.”

LHS continues to offer social distance lunches in the Main Gym. Although no specific measures were taken, students are encouraged to go to their LSTs to talk with counselors and social workers for any support they may need. 

“I want our students to know that I really appreciate how hard they’ve tried to follow the guidance and rules, even when it’s confusing, or even when it makes no sense,” Dr. Koulentes said. “This next couple of days might be a little bit awkward as students and staff learn how to ‘do’ school now with a partially masked, partially unmasked world. But if we focus on taking care of each other, respecting each other, we’ll learn how to do that very quickly. And then that awkwardness and that confusion will go away.”