Watch CBS News

Some Parents Not Pleased As Kids Are Required To Wear Masks During Outdoor Recess At Jonathan Burr Elementary School In Wicker Park

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A masking controversy is bubbling up at an elementary school in Wicker Park – with regard to whether kids need to be masked during outdoor recess as a mitigation against COVID-19.

As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported Friday, it turns out the decision on that issue is up to the individual school.

According to Chicago Public Schools students may remove their masks for recess BUT the school's principal gets the final say… and at schools like this one, the masks are staying on.

The kids at Jonathan Burr Elementary School, 1621 W. Wabansia Ave., get 20 minutes a day worth of fresh air at recess. For some, recess is their favorite subject.

Parents received this letter from CPS in July saying "…face coverings may be removed for outdoor activities, such as recess." So Burr did Charlie Costa said he was shocked when he drove by the playground one afternoon and saw his two kids masked up.

"My kids were crushed that very first day, and continue to be crushed," Costa said. "It's been a couple of months. We've been trying to try our very best to communicate with administrators at Burr."

Costa said he and his wife were given the runaround. He said they were originally told it was Chicago Public Schools policy for the masks to stay on outside.

But Eric Walker, a spokesman for the district, told the CBS 2 Investigators that's not quite right.

"Students may remove their masks for recess and other outdoor activities at the discretion of each school's principal," Walker's statement said.

CPS leaves it up to principals to decide if they need to "address unique school conditions" and keep masks on.

In an email exchange with the family, Burr's principal said that masks are required because different classes are interacting during recess.

"I feel they're not being treated respectfully by being masked outdoors, and we were told otherwise," Costa said.

So what does the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say? According to their school guidance updated just last month, in general, people do not need to wear masks when outdoors including recess.

"CDC recommends people who are not fully vaccinated wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings or during activities that involve sustained close contact with other people," the guidance reads.

Costa argues that is not the case on the playground at Burr Elementary.

"I'd be hard-pressed to think we're the only family out there that thinks like this," he said.

We did reach out to the principal to learn more about the policy and her rationale behind it. So far, we haven't gotten a response.

The full statement from CPS is as follows:

"Chicago Public Schools works consistently to protect the health and safety of our students and staff. All of the District's protocols are in alignment with the health and safety guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH).

"Individual schools can adopt COVID-19 mitigation masking strategies that exceed District and state requirements to better protect their students and staff, including masking requirements for students involved in outdoor activities.

"The District's current guidelines require that all students and staff wear masks indoors at all times, regardless of vaccination status, except for when eating or drinking. The District also requires students to wear masks during outdoor recess if multiple cohorts have recess at the same time. If there is only one cohort having outdoor recess at a particular time, the principal can decide whether or not students have to wear masks. CPS follows all COVID-19 mitigation strategies recommended by the CDC, IDPH and CDPH to ensure the health and safety of its students and staff amid the ongoing pandemic."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.