Illinois Announces Mask Mandate for Schools, Effective Immediately

On Wednesday, Aug. 5, Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker announced a mask mandate for schools to take effect immediately. All students, teachers and staff, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear masks indoors to prevent the spread of the delta variant of COVID-19. The mandate applies to all public and private K–12 schools and daycares.

The mandate also applies to indoor youth sports for students ages preK–12. Student athletes and coaches participating in outdoor sports activities will not be required to wear masks.

“As your governor, it’s my duty to say that we all must take immediate and urgent action to slow the spread of the delta variant,” said Pritzker. “People are dying who don’t have to die.”

The school mask mandate is the first step of a three-step plan to curtail the spread of the delta variant in the state of Illinois. The second is a vaccine requirement for all state employees working in “congregate facilities,” and the third is a mask mandate within all long-term care facilities.

Pritzker said that the mandate will be rescinded once state health officials start seeing reductions in virus transmissions. Other factors will include the availability of vaccines for children younger than 12 and continuing guidance from the CDC.

“Far too few school districts have chosen to follow the federal Centers for Disease Control’s prescriptions for keeping students and staff safe, though I want to commend the districts in Edwardsville, Champaign, Peoria, Springfield, Elgin, Chicago and others for already doing the right thing for their students,” said Pritzker. “Given the CDC’s strong recommendation, I had hoped that a statewide school mask requirement wouldn’t be necessary, but it is.”

According to local news sources, reactions to the mask mandate are predictably varied.

“I think he didn’t want to take the responsibility and accountability for this to begin with, because he didn’t want the blowback,” said Ronak Maisuria, a parent of an Illinois K–12 student. “I give him credit for finally issuing a mandate, but he should have done it from the beginning.”

Meredith Darbyshire, parent of two Illinois K–12 students, disagrees: “My position is, it’s the parents’ choice,” she said. “And I believe that it should be optional, and it should be left up to the parents to make that decision for their family and what is best for their children.”

The controversy comes as the percentage of COVID cases among people less than 20 years old has more than doubled (and as the number of hospitalizations has tripled) since January. “There is an abundance of epidemiological evidence supporting community masking to reduce the spread of the virus,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning and Campus Security and Life Safety. He can be reached at


  • Making Safety and Security Intrinsic to School Design

    Public anxieties about school safety are escalating across the country. According to a 2023 Gallup report, 44% of parents fear for their child’s physical safety at school, a 10 percentage-point increase since 2019. Unfortunately, these fears are likely to increase if the incidence of school tragedies continues to mount. As a result, school leaders are now charged with two non-negotiable responsibilities. The first, as always, is to ensure kids have what they need to learn, grow, and thrive. Sadly, their second responsibility is to keep the children in their care safe from threats and physical danger. Read Now

  • Unlocking Peace of Mind

    In a perfect world, every school would have an unlimited budget to help secure their schools. In reality, schools must prioritize what budget they have while navigating the complexities surrounding school security and lockdown Read Now

  • Emerging Campus Access Control Solutions

    Emerging solutions in campus access control can mean different things. Usually, we expect the topic to focus on the very latest in door security products and solutions that have just been recently released or are about to be launched. After all, staying up on improvements to keep campuses safer is critical. Plus, it’s always interesting and exciting to learn what’s new and how innovations are going to better protect lives and assets and help the industry be even more successful. Read Now

  • Here’s How Instructional Audio Can Play a Key Role in School Safety

    Ensuring the safety of students and employees is critical in today’s educational environment. While the threat of a school shooting is in the back of everyone’s mind, the truth is there are many possible scenarios that could crop up at any time in classrooms, hallways, and other school spaces—from fights or altercations to a sick child or staff member who requires emergency attention. Read Now