Back-to-School to Include Back to Masks In Catholic Schools, Religious Ed Classes
By Penny Wiegert, Editor
August 12, 2021
DIOCESE—The school supply list for Catholic schools will again include face masks, at least for the beginning of the 2021-22 school year.
The Office of Catholic Education for the Diocese of Rockford issued its latest guidance Aug. 5 following an Aug. 4 press conference held by Illinois Governor JB Pritzker.
Pritzker announced an Executive Order that supports safe in-person learning and requires that face masks be worn indoors in all public and private schools by all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to PreK-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. 
‘We will continue to monitor COVID-19 positivity rates and levels of transmission and provide you with updated information.’
— Vito DeFrisco, diocesan superintendent of schools
The mandate became effective immediately.
Pritzker said that the new requirement will also apply to all students and coaches participating in indoor sports and other activities.
“As your governor, it’s my duty to say that we must all take immediate and urgent action to slow the spread of the delta variant,” he said. “People are dying who don’t have to die.” 
He added that the state has a “limited amount of time” to slow the spread of the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.
The new state mandate comes after the Illinois Department of Public Health said in late July that it would follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new recommendations issued July 27 for masking indoors at K-12 schools, recommending it be done universally among teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status. 
In a letter sent to all parents, principals, pastors and schools, Superintendent of Catholic Schools Vito DeFrisco wrote, “Although our letter dated July 15, 2021 stated parents individually determine whether they and their child will wear a mask while attending school or religious education gatherings this fall, the Governor’s Executive Order has the force of law, and we are required to follow it.  Our objective is to keep our students in school for in-person learning.”
All 35 diocesan elementary and secondary schools and parish religious education programs in the 11-county diocese are to comply with the state mandate. 
DeFrisco said “We will continue to monitor COVID-19 positivity rates and levels of transmission and provide you with updated information from the Governor’s office, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Illinois State Board of Education should these protocols change. 
“The Catholic Diocese of Rockford has the greatest concern and care for God’s children, and we will do what is required by the Governor to hopefully eradicate COVID-19 and its variants.”
In churches and at church activities, the guidance on face masks remains the same: face masks are recommended for all those who are unvaccinated or those who feel safer wearing a masks during indoor activities.
In light of the increase in cases of coronavirus and new health recommendations,  Bishop David Malloy reminds all Catholics that, “Masked or not, distanced or together, our goal must be to live as the Church. In that way we can be a sign and an example to others.”
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