Gov. Tom Wolf announced that he expects to turn over decisions about masking rules to school districts in January. The Democratic governor Tom Wolf considered the movement as an attempt to reach certain level of normality. It is “time to prepare for a transition back to a more normal setting,” he said.
January 17, 2022 is the date Wolf is proposing for returning the commonwealth’s K-12 school mask requirement to local leaders. The decision to soon end the statewide mandate comes days after federal officials approved the COVID-19 vaccine for younger children.
— Office of the Governor (@GovernorsOffice) November 8, 2021
According to the Official Pennsylvania Government website, upon the expiration of the statewide mandate, local school officials will again be able to implement mitigation efforts at the local level. At that time, schools may continue requiring mask-wearing based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance.
Wolf stated that revaluation of the school masking mandate will continue. “During the announcement, my administration made clear that we would continue to reevaluate the status of the school mask mandate. Now, we are in a different place than we were in September, and it is time to prepare for a transition back to a more normal setting.”
The Wolf administration imposed a statewide masking mandate in early September, citing a surge in infections and hospitalizations from the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. The order from acting Health Secretary Alison Beam required that students, staff and visitors at K-12 schools and child care facilities wear masks while indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
The full order remains in effect until an additional announcement in mid-January at which time the administration anticipates local K-12 school officials will again be able to implement mitigation efforts at the local level. The order will be in effect for early learning programs and child care providers until further notification.
The Governor noted how conditions have changed since the beginning of the pandemic. “Unfortunately, the COVID-19 virus is now a part of our daily lives, but with the knowledge we’ve gained over the past 20 months and critical tools like the vaccine at our disposal, we must take the next step forward in our recovery.”
Wolf had previously said masking was something local school officials should decide but reversed course in late summer. He said the universal, statewide order was warranted after most of the state’s 500 districts did not impose their own mask requirement for schools.
“We at the department of education are so appreciative of all that our schools are doing to help teachers and students navigate the incredible challenges we’ve faced during the pandemic,” said Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Secretary Noe Ortega.
Ortega stressed the importance of working in coordination with school leaders to increase security. “We know the mitigation steps we need to implement to keep people safe and keep kids learning in the classroom. School leaders have always made decisions about how to maintain order in schools and ensure that all students have quality learning opportunities. We look forward to working with our schools as they continue to navigate the pandemic and are available to provide them assistance, resources, and best practices.”