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Rock Island-Milan schools will keep hybrid mask policy, despite changing CDC guidelines

The changes, recommending full-time masking in all schools, come just six days before the first day of school.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — The Rock Island-Milan School District says they will keep their hybrid mask policy in place, despite changing recommendations from the CDC and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). 

On Tuesday, the CDC announced it was altering some of its masking guidelines after a surge in Covid-19 cases across the country. Now, masks are recommended when indoors, even for vaccinated people. 

For schools, the new guidelines call for full-time masking by all staff, students and visitors, even for the fully-vaccinated. 

Shortly after the guidance was adjusted, the IDPH revealed that they would be following suit with the CDC, recommending masking in all Illinois schools. 

RELATED: CDC reverses course on indoor masks in parts of US where COVID is surging

The Rock Island-Milan school district is one of the first in the region to head back to the classroom, with students returning on Monday, August 2. One week earlier, on Monday July 26, the district announced they would be instating a hybrid mask mandate, requiring coverings only from those too young to be vaccinated. 

In a statement, District Superintendent Dr. Reginald Lawrence said elementary students will need masks, while junior and high school students will have a choice, although unvaccinated kids are strongly encouraged to wear one. The statement reads, in part: 

"With the support of the school board, and based on our current COVID-19 County and School Metrics, I recommend that RIMSD 41 begin the 2021-22 school year with masks being required for all students in Elementary buildings serving those under the age of 12, and a mask-recommended policy in our Junior High and High Schools."

RELATED: Updated CDC guidance: Where are masks indoors recommended again?

At the school board meeting on Tuesday, July 27, the district affirmed that they would continue to follow that policy, and wait to see if the new CDC and IDPH guidelines would need to be enacted. 

"As of right now, our district will remain with the memo that went out yesterday. Elementary schools being full mask, mask required. Junior high and high school being mask recommended," said Dr. Lawrence.  

He explained that the district takes cues from the IDPH as well as Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, and that they would continue to monitor the Covid-19 rates in and around Rock Island County. 

RELATED: Rock Island city council votes to increase water, wastewater, and storm water utilities through 2025

"We pivot as we need to - as things change. There are a lot of moving parts to share information and help us try and make decisions," he said. "We don't have the luxury of two or three weeks to be ready for any adaptations that have taken place. And so moving forward, we're going to continue to pivot as community and regional information continues to come out, and we try to keep our students and our staff members safe in our schools."

Other Covid-19 mitigation efforts will remain in place as well, including social distancing, hand washing, sanitation and routine cleaning. 

But the district says keeping kids in school, in-person, for five days a week is top priority heading into the fall semester. 

"Getting our students back in person is job number one," said Dr. Lawrence. "Safety, again, is going to be paramount in our district."