CHICAGO - Starting Monday, masks are optional at Chicago Public Schools.
More than half of the children at South Loop Elementary wore masks to start the school day, but now they have an option to remove them.
Chicago Public School officials say the district is turning the corner on the pandemic.
"We’re still encouraging families who are unvaccinated to wear a mask. We do have schools with low vaccination rates. This is the first time in two years that we are saying we’re at a low risk of COVID-19 infection. It’s never been lower, right now the infection rate is .1 of one percent in our schools," said Pedro Martinez, CEO of CPS.
But vaccination rates vary across the city.
The Chicago Teachers Union says 50 of Chicago’s schools have rates below ten percent.
The union says dropping the mask mandate violates their work agreement and leaves educators and children on the South and West Sides unprotected.
Jennifer Dickey is the parent of a third-grader.
"We think it’s every parent's choice, but we've decided to keep the mask on until we see the numbers go up once people start taking them off," said Dickey.
Her son, Caden wore his mask to school, articulating ambivalence.
"I kinda want it off because it keeps falling off my face. I kinda want to keep it on because I don't want to get sick," said Caden.
Martinez says the lawsuit that challenged the state’s school mask mandate did factor into this decision.
The mask option applies to school buildings, outside property and school busses.