The decision of whether or not to mandate masking in K-12 schools may be shifting back into the hands of local leaders.
Commonwealth Court voted 4-1 to throw out the order of Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam, who signed an order on Aug. 31 that required the masking of all students and staff in K-12 schools, intermediate units, and early learning and child care centers, regardless of vaccination status. The court said Beam didn’t have the authority to make such an order.
The Wolf Administration is begging to differ, stating “the secretary of health’s authority is clearly outlined in existing law.” The Department of Health has directed counsel to file an appeal that it said “will immediately stay the Commonwealth Court’s decision.”
The order was initially anticipated to expire on Jan. 17, 2022, at which time the power to decide on masking would fall back into the hands of local leaders.
“The school mask order has been critical in ensuring Pennsylvania’s children could safely learn and grow in an in-person classroom setting at the beginning of the school year,” said Wolf. “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.
“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. With more than 70 percent of adults vaccinated in Pennsylvania and the recently expanded vaccine eligibility, I strongly encourage parents to take safety measures to protect your children and your family – like getting vaccinated.”