Pennsylvania Dept. of Education updated its guidance Monday on face masks for students in schools. Now, school students must wear face masks at all times while attending school in-person. That includes times when social distancing is possible.
Yes, even if students are 6 feet apart, the state Education Dept. is mandating that they wear a face mask.
There was no big announcement on this major change in guidance for schools reopening and planning to hold in-person classes. The updated guidance was hidden on an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page on Universal Face Coverings on the DOE site.
There are few exceptions to this mandate. The only time when students can take off their masks are:
- Eating or drinking when socially distanced from other students
- When the mask would create an unsafe situation when a student operates equipment or completes a task
- During “face covering breaks” that are strictly regulated to just 10 minutes
Pennsylvania Education Dept. Now Requires Face Masks on Students at All Times
According to a Facebook post from State Rep. Russ Diamond, the Dept. of Education was motivated to make this change because of an article in the American Academy of Pediatrics which recommends children 2 and older wear a face covering at all times.
Now, that was their recommendation.
The Pennsylvania Dept. of Education took that recommendation and made it a mandate.
The difference between each has been a bone of contention lately in Pennsylvania, specifically with education. Remember, about 2 weeks ago Gov. Tom Wolf made a recommendation that there be no Fall high school sports.
And since making that recommendation, Pennsylvanians seem to believe he means it’s an order. The PIAA has been terrified to make a final determination on the Fall sports season even though it had previously decided to move forward with the Fall season.
Wolf also passed on making any orders or mandates regarding the reopening of schools at the end of this month. In a reversal of his pandemic response to this point, Wolf gave decision-making power to local school districts. And since then, local districts have been creating their own pandemic response plans and deciding how they’ll start the 2020-2021 school term.
In Schuylkill County, some schools have decided to go back to in-person learning while others have chosen to do a hybrid learning situation. That’s when half the student body attends school in-person some days of the week while other students are taking class virtually.
Updating Pandemic Response Plans
Part of those reopening plans have included how to handle the face mask situation and when students would be allowed to take them off throughout the day. It appears the Dept. of Education has taken care of that decision for them.
DOE says schools must reflect this updated order in their own plans. It’s also requiring local school boards to approve this mandate at their next regular meeting.
Pottsville Area school board members meet on Tuesday evening. They’ve promised to finally decide how they’ll start the new school term. And this change in guidance, among other changes, will likely be discussed.
All schools will have to approve this mandate and then resubmit their pandemic safety plans to the Dept. of Education.
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