Archdiocese of Chicago to lift school mask mandate in Chicago, Evanston and Oak Park

The decision comes one week after a south suburban Catholic school principal was fired after he refused to comply with the archdiocese’s mask mandate.

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Outside of Queen of Martyrs Catholic School in Evergreen Park, parents and students hold up signs and flags calling for the end of the archdiocese’s mask mandate as well as in support of Principal M. Jacob “Doc” Mathius earlier this month.

Anthony Vázquez/Sun-Times

As COVID-19 infections rates continue to fall, the Archdiocese of Chicago moved Wednesday to lift its mask mandate at all schools, beginning next week.

The decision comes one week after a south suburban Catholic school principal was fired after he refused to comply with the archdiocese’s mask mandate.

Starting Monday, mask-wearing will be optional at all Catholic schools in Chicago, Evanston and Oak Park, Catholic schools superintendent Greg Richmond announced in a letter sent to families. The timeline coincides with the city lifting its indoor mask mandate and the relaxing of school COVID mitigations in Oak Park and Evanston.

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“With the number of positive cases in our schools so very low, we are very happy that we can now move to an environment in which masks are optional,” Richmond said.

Earlier this month, the archdiocese made mask-wearing optional at Lake County and most suburban Cook County schools. The decision made some parents and students at schools that still required masks frustrated. Richmond said infection rates have “continued to plummet in schools that required masks and ones that did not” over the last month.

In fact, a whole class hasn’t had to quarantine in any school in the archdiocese’s system at any point in February, and only about a tenth of schools have a single case now, according to Richmond, who also noted that the “overwhelming majority” of schools have zero reported cases.

“This progress is a testament to the hard work and cooperation of our school families, educators, and staff,” Richmond said. “This has been a difficult time for all of us, and I’m grateful for your commitment and patience during this ordeal. Your efforts are paying off.

“We know masks are not ideal for student learning and human development. We can feel better knowing that our students will soon be able to learn, grow, and develop more freely in a mask optional environment.”

Last week, M. Jacob “Doc” Mathius, principal at Queen of Martyrs Catholic School in Evergreen Park, was fired after he declined to follow the archdiocese’s mask mandate — a decision that frustrated many students and parents who came out in support of Mathius after he was put on administrative leave.

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