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Clarendon Hills Schools Go Mask Optional After Day Of Remote Learning In Wake Of Order Against COVID-19 Mask Mandate

CLARENDON HILLS, Ill. (CBS) -- It was an emotional day of outrage, elation, and confusion for students, parents, and educators across Illinois Monday, as they tried to sort through a judge's order suspending the COVID-19 mask mandate at 145 districts around the state.

Now several Illinois schools districts - including many within the Chicago suburbs - have decided they will no longer enforce masks. Some such districts are not even part of the lawsuit.

In west suburban Clarendon Hills, Community Consolidated School District 181 decided Monday night to go mask optional.

"Based on the Court's TRO decision, and on legal recommendation, we have determined to temporarily suspend enforcement of the mask mandate and exclusion for asymptomatic close contacts for all District students," the district wrote. "This will take effect starting Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. We will continue to monitor the status of the case. If the rule is reversed or modified on appeal, we will immediately return to a mask mandate."

On Monday, officials at the district decided just to cancel in-person classes entirely.

As CBS 2's Meredith Barack reported, the purpose of the move to remote learning in Clarendon Hills classes was to avoid confusion. But many students skipped the at-home lessons, preferring an in-person protest here at Community Consolidated School District 181 headquarters instead. The protest was against a mask mandate, and participants chanted, "Open our schools!"

"Most people at our school don't want to," said eighth grader Stella McCarroll, "Like as you can see, there's so many people here that don't want this."

Stella said she and other students simply want a choice when it comes to masks.

"For the people that really want them should be able to wear them, but for people this is causing problems for, and it's hard for them, they shouldn't have to wear them," she said.

But it's unclear if that will happen at District 181, as school leaders declared an emergency day on Monday - implementing remote instruction.

A note to families Sunday night cited a strong likelihood of disruption in the district's schools that would have a negative impact on instruction and learning.

But instead of logging into class, many students came to the protest to voice their opinion on the matter.

The district has recorded more than 700 positive COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the school year. But despite that, parents say they want to be able to send their kids to school without a mask - and they respect those who want their kids to continue wearing a mask in class.

We tried to find a local family who wanted to see the mask mandate continued in Clarendon Hills - but were unsuccessful.

"It's OK if you want to wear a mask, but it's our choice as well - and we don't want our children masked," said Andrew Goss, a parent of second graders in the district, "so to have it even optional - I think that that should be offered."

After a year of remote learning, and now mask-wearing, the Gosses said they just want their daughters to have a more normal school experience.

"We just wish that they could experience kind of what we had," Goss said.

The district declined Barack's request for a comment, as they say this subject is related to ongoing litigation.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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