School students in Pennsylvania will be required to wear face masks or face shields when the new term starts in August.
That’s according to new information from the Pennsylvania Dept. of Education on Monday.
Face Masks Required in Pennsylvania Schools
The face mask requirement in schools follows the July 1 order from Health Secretary Rachel Levine. In that updated order, Levine says face masks are now required pretty much anywhere in public by anyone over the age of 2.
This information from the Education Dept. simply extends that order to inside schools.
The order to wear face masks in Pennsylvania schools includes the following settings:
- Public K-12 schools
- Brick-and-mortar schools
- Cyber charter schools
- Private and parochial schools
- Career and Technical Centers
- Intermediate Units
Face masks must also be worn at:
- Boarding schools
- Residential schools
- Detention centers
- Head Start
- Preschool Early Intervention programs
- Private Academic Nursery schools
- All Pre-K activities
“For the safety of students, staff and families, and to avoid community spread of COVID-19, students and staff are considered to be members of the public who are congregating in indoor locations. As such, they are required to adhere to this Order,” the statement from the Education Dept. says.
Face masks in schools will be required until further notice, the state says.
Acceptable Masks in Pennsylvania Schools
This updated guidance doesn’t just include face masks. Face coverings, like a face shield, are acceptable. Whichever covering is used, it must cover the mouth and nose.
“A ‘face covering’ can be made of a variety of synthetic or natural fabrics, including cotton, silk, or linen, and, for the purposes of the order, can include a plastic face shield that covers the nose and mouth. ‘Face coverings’ may be factory-made, sewn by hand, or improvised from household items, including but not limited to, scarves, bandanas, t-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels,” the state says.
The state discourages students, teachers, and staffs at schools from using N95 masks.
Removing a Face Mask in a Pennsylvania School
While masks are supposed to be worn all day at school, there are some times when masks needn’t be worn:
- Eating and drinking (6 feet apart)
- Seated at desks or work areas (6 feet apart)
- Any activity where people are socially distanced
Health Reasons for Students Not Wearing a Face Mask
There are some medical exceptions to this updated face masks in schools rule. Per the Dept. of Education:
Any student who cannot wear a mask or face shield due to a medical condition, including those with respiratory issues that impede breathing, a mental health condition, or disability, and students who would be unable to remove a mask without assistance are not required to wear face coverings. Individuals who are communicating or seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired or who has another disability, where the ability to see the mouth is essential to communication, are not required to wear a mask; however, individuals should consider using another type of face covering such as a plastic face shield.
Students don’t need to prove in any way that they have a medical condition that prevents them from safely wearing a face mask.
Student-Athletes Also Required to Wear Face Masks
The July 1 order plus Monday’s new announcement on required face masks in Pennsylvania schools applies to sports, too.
The DOE says student-athletes must wear face masks when they’re not actively in a game or practice.
The state clarifies, saying, “Athletes are not required to wear face coverings while actively engaged in workouts and competition that prevent the wearing of face coverings, but must wear face coverings when on the sidelines, in the dugout, etc. and anytime 6 feet of social distancing is not possible.”
Change of Plans on Face Masks in Pennsylvania Schools
Even though many school districts have recently submitted Health and Safety plans for reopening for the 2020-2021 term, this updated guidance changes that considerably.
The mask order must be included in those plans, now. And school boards must now vote to approve the order that face masks be worn at school.