H-F Goes Mask Optional


On Friday, Feb. 25, Homewood-Flossmoor High School made the decision to go mask optional starting Monday, Feb. 28. 

On Monday, Feb. 21, H-F sent out an email concerning the future of the mask policy here at the high school and will take the next couple of days to create a timeline and statement regarding the decision of wearing masks. 

“The first thing that we’re looking at that we’ve always looked at is the level of transmission of the virus,” superintendent-elect Scott Wakeley stated. “We’re two years into this, more than 80% of people are vaccinated and this new variant isn’t as lethal as the others, and that’s what we look at when implementing any mask mandate.” 

H-F has been following the guidelines put in place by the Illinois State Board of Education, the governor and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“We’ve always looked at this to do the safest thing possible for everyone, using the guidelines put forth by our bosses: Illinois State Board of Education, the governor, and also following the Illinois Department of Public Health, but always in mind the safest thing possible,” according to superintendent Von Mansfield

Due to our low transmission and high vaccination rates across the school district, the school has moved towards going mask optional. 

“We may have been more conservative than most places that wanted to get out of this as soon as they possibly could, but again we follow all those touchpoints that Dr. Wakeley mentioned to make sure that we’re doing the safest thing possible but at this point, we’re still doing the safest thing possible and are able to move in the direction of moving towards mask optional,Mansfield stated. 

The new mask mandate will include everyone, not just those who are vaccinated.

It will be for everyone, Wakeley stated.People’s vaccination status is personal and so we don’t want to put anything in place that identifies someone’s vaccination status.” 

The school has steps in place in case an outbreak were to occur. 

“Those steps and procedures will be the same procedures of how we did it in the first place. Probably be hearing from the Illinois State Board of Education stating that a new variant of some kind has been exposed as the ones that we know of, and also as viruses mutate and change, they’re going to continue to do that and there’s going to be a lot of new variants but it’s not going to be the ones that create the same levels of illness that we’ve seen,” Mansfield stated. 

“We’re still going to try to social distance, and make sure we try to keep some distance between the students in the lunchroom, so we’re probably not going to pile everyone back into the cafeteria. We’ll most likely maintain the gyms and the current lunchrooms to give kids some space.”

H-F will still offer SHIELD testing to all those who want to get tested. 

“We are going to continue to do [testing] throughout the year, it’s been optional and it’ll remain optional. It is paid for by the state, we don’t pay or charge anybody for it so we will continue to offer it for the rest of the year or until the state says, we’re no longer going to provide this service,” Wakeley stated. 

The school is also offering another vaccination opportunity for the community in the next couple of weeks. 

“We’re going to have one more vaccination opportunity for students, here at the school for students who haven’t got vaccinated or are getting their second shot, or are getting their booster, in the next couple weeks,” Mansfield stated. 

H-F is hoping to go completely maskless in the near future, according to Mansfield. 

“We’ve gone from mask to mask optional and at some point, we’re going to move away from mask optional to no mask, and at that point, you’re going to have to maybe have a doctor’s note or some reason that you’re still masked because I don’t believe we’ll be still wearing a mask for the next year, two years, or three years.”

This afternoon H-F sent out a letter to students and parents regarding the change in policy: students and staff who are in close contact with someone who tested positive with COVID-19 will no longer be required to quarantine, along with students and staff who are showing symptoms but have not tested positive. However, students will still be required to wear masks on the buses due to a federal mandate and exclusion from school for five days if tested positive.