CHICAGO (CBS) — Catholic school students, teachers, and staff who have been fully vaccinated won’t need to wear masks when they return to school in Cook and Lake counties this fall, the Chicago Archdiocese announced on Tuesday.

Rules for unvaccinated individuals will be released early next month.

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Archdiocese officials said they plan to return to “near-normal” operations at the system’s Catholic schools for the upcoming school year — including a return of school masses; an elimination of cohorts used to keep limited numbers of students in the same group throughout the day; a resumption of al extracurricular activities, athletics, theater, music, clubs, and field trips; the return of before- and after-care programs; and reopening of libraries and computer labs.

However, classrooms will still have assigned seating charts. Quarantines will be limited to the students seated immediately next to, in front of, or behind a classmate who tests positive for COVID-19. Wellness checks and staggered drop-off and pick-up schedules will no longer be required.

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“We are excited to be resuming extracurricular activities and other operations that were halted during the pandemic,” said Justin Lombardo, chief human resources officer and chair of the Archdiocesan COVID-19 Task Force. “These safety guidelines will be reassessed, as necessary, during the academic year to ensure safe operations. And, for the sake of everyone’s health and our collective ability to fully overcome the COVID-19 virus, we will continue to encourage vaccinations for faculty, staff and students over the age of 12.”

Updated safety protocols for the 2021-22 school year will require any student who is ill or experiencing COVID-like symptoms to stay home.  Schools will follow local health department guidelines regarding quarantines. Classrooms and activities will maintain 3 feet of distancing indoors whenever possible. Desks and high-traffic areas will bee cleaned daily. Students and staff will be encouraged to sanitize their hands when they arrive at school, and throughout the day, and to use water bottles instead of drinking directly from water fountains.

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Parents are also encouraged to provide proof of vaccination for students to help with contact tracing purposes, and to ensure vaccinated students who are exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19 are not included in quarantine requirements.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff