With face covering requirements lifted across Illinois, Chicago Public Schools officials say classrooms will soon transition to a mask-optional model for students and staff.

Starting next week, CPS said its mask mandate would be lifted for all students and staff, giving parents, students and staff a choice, although the district said it would continue to encourage their use.

The CPS was one of the first to call for universal masking in schools, and we would not move to a mask-optional model unless the data and our public health experts indicate it is safe for our school communities,” CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said in a statement. “We will support our staff and students as we enter this new phase of the pandemic and continue to move forward together.”

Citing vaccination rates and new CDC guidelines for the change, the district said more information will be released for parents before March 14.

“Adults in our school communities will set the tone during this transition,” education director Bogdana Chkoumbova said in a statement. “I am confident that we will continue to support and respect each other throughout this next phase of the pandemic. Family and community situations can change and dictate whether a student or staff member wears a mask and we all need to make sure everyone feels welcome to continue the practice that makes them feel safest and most comfortable. ‘easy.

The CPS mask mandate was part of a deal reached between city officials and the Chicago Teachers Union earlier this year. The union called the district’s decision to waive the requirement a “clear violation” of the duo’s agreement.

“Our union will immediately file an unfair labor practice (ULP) charge against the district in response, and request that the CPS negotiate this decision – a decision that affects nearly 400,000 students, educators and school staff in Chicago,” the union said in a Monday release.

Illinois ended its requirement for face masks in schools last week, as Governor JB Pritzker announced after the Illinois Supreme Court denied his appeal of a banning order in a lawsuit challenging the mask mandate.

In a statement, Pritzker explained that Illinois will move forward to remove its school mask mandate after the Centers for Disease Control updated guidelines to recommend masks only in areas of high COVID-19 transmission. 19.

Last month, Illinois Governor and Attorney General Kwame Raoul said the state would ask the Illinois Supreme Court to review an appeals court ruling making masks optional in schools. , noting that the decision did not “resolve important legal issues”.