WTIP file photo

ISD 166 to require masks for all students and staff as COVID cases spike in Cook County

The Cook County School District (ISD 166) Board voted Thursday night to implement a mask requirement for all students and staff to start the upcoming 2021-22 school year.

The board voted 4-1 to approve the policy that requires masks be worn by all students and staff at ISD 166. Board member Stephanie Radloff was the lone vote against the policy.

The board voted to approve the policy on the same day Cook County Public Health Supervisor Grace Grinager noted another spike in the case count of COVID-19 among local residents. Grinager confirmed with WTIP Thursday night that nine new cases have been reported in the past week. There have now been 11 new cases in the past two weeks among Cook County residents, bringing the total case count to 188 since the start of the pandemic. The recent uptick in new cases is among the highest in Cook County when compared to any other stage of the pandemic. The highly contagious delta variant is likely behind the spike in new cases, with an estimated 95 percent of new cases in Minnesota being link to the variant, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Prior to voting on the mask policy, the board heard a number of public comments on the topic of requiring masks while at school. There were comments from parents and other community members, some speaking in favor a mask requirement and others saying it should not be required. There were also petitions circulating online and locally both in favor and against a mask policy.

Ultimately, the board voted to require masks for all students and staff while indoors on the ISD 166 campus. Visitors to the school will also be required to wear masks under the policy.

The first day of school at ISD 166 is Sept. 7.

Click here to view the mask policy approved by the board for the 2021-22 school year.

The Associated Press reports that districts across the Minnesota have faced challenging conversations prior to the start of the school regarding mask policies.