Joliet Public Schools District 86 will require all of its students and staff members to wear a mask while inside district buildings for the upcoming school year amid rising COVID-19 cases.
The district made the announcement Thursday in a letter to its staff and families. Students and staff may remove their masks when outdoors, according to the letter.
The announcement comes as local public school boards have been debating whether or not to require masks for students and staff. Public health agencies are urging the resumption of mask-wearing, even among those vaccinated for COVID-19, especially as transmission of the virus has greatly increased in recent weeks.
“These plans are subject to change based on COVID-19 data and further guidance we may receive,” District 86 Superintendent Theresa Rouse wrote in the letter. “We will continue to monitor local health conditions and keep you informed if plans are adjusted.”
The district published the results of a survey of over 2,400 parents and guardians on its Facebook page last week, which found that 61% of them favored a requirement for all students to wear a mask in school, regardless of vaccination status.
The topic of requiring masks in schools has become a flashpoint at school board meetings recently. Several parents have fervently argued both for and against mandating mask-wearing, local school officials said.
Rouse also said in the letter that the district is strongly recommending that staff and eligible students get vaccinated against COVID-19. Only children 12 and older are able to receive a Pfizer vaccine.
The district also will clean and disinfect schools and classrooms daily.
Students in the district will return to the classroom full-time, five days a week beginning Aug. 18.