Philly area schools drop mask mandate as city says it will rule in a few weeks
Mask mandates against COVID-19 are dropping fast nationwide, but the School District of Philadelphia is holding out a little bit longer.
MORE IN THIS SECTION
Per new CDC recommendations, the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) is easing its COVID-19 testing requirements for staff, while keeping its mask mandate in place.
On Monday, Feb. 28, Superintendent Dr. William Hite sent an email to school staff letting them know of the plans to phase out on-site testing for employees.
“Given the many hours we spend together indoors, we will continue to require staff and students to wear masks while in school and offices. As the pandemic evolves, more changes to health and safety protocols are likely,” Hite wrote.
Beginning on March 14, the district will no longer require vaccinated employees to get tested. Testing for unvaccinated staff will decrease from twice a week to once a week.
SDP still requires students and staff to wear masks, and recommends either a surgical mask, KF94, OR N95. Early last month, the district updated its guidance to say that cloth masking alone is no longer considered effective against the virus, and that anyone who wears one should double up with a surgical mask.
The Philly school district is updating its masking guidance 😷— WHYY News (@WHYYNews) February 3, 2022
Students can either wear a “well-fitted” KN95, KF94, or K95 mask, or wear a cloth mask over a three-ply disposable surgical mask. #Phled
via @malloryfalk https://t.co/kUkUTtrK2D
On Friday, Feb. 25, the CDC eliminated its recommendation for universal schools masking, and instead recommended mask mandates only in communities where cases and hospitalizations are high.
The statewide mask mandate has already ended in Pennsylvania, and a growing number of school districts in the state have shifted from requiring masks to recommending them.
Across Chester and Montgomery Counties, several school districts informed families over the weekend that masks would no longer be a requirement. Some recognized the debate over masking, and asked for community members to respect each other’s decisions.
“We understand that our mask optional policy will be welcomed with both enthusiasm and trepidation — neither response is wrong,” Unionville Chadds-Ford Superintendent John Sanville said in a message to families.
Other districts, including many in Bucks County, had already made masks optional, after the state Supreme Court struck down mandated masking in December.
Schools across Chester County and a number in Montgomery County immediately shifted to optional masking after the CDC changed its guidance.— The Philadelphia Inquirer (@PhillyInquirer) February 28, 2022
Meanwhile, Philly health officials are holding off.https://t.co/i2ac7Wwajc
In Upper Darby, Superintendent Dan McGarry told families in a message over the weekend that the district would stick with its plan to shift to optional masking on March 7.
“We believe this will give our students and families time to process this decision,” McGarry said.
Philadelphia city officials said the city’s mask mandate will stay in place despite the updated CDC guidance. On Monday, Feb. 28, a health department spokesperson said the department will make a recommendation on school masking in a few weeks.
‘We know that many places are beginning to drop their school mask mandates, and we’d like to learn from their experience, instead of rushing ahead and putting our children at undue risk,” said spokesperson James Garrow.