Some Philly area school districts make masking optional in wake of Supreme Court ruling

At least five school districts in the Philadelphia suburbs are no longer requiring face masks to be worn by students and staff.

A student, wearing a face mask, sits at an isolated desk at school

A student sits at an isolated desk in a Philadelphia classroom. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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Since a state Supreme Court ruling on Friday threw out the Wolf administration’s school mask mandate, some Pennsylvania districts have moved forward with lifting face mask requirements.

The court ruled the mask mandate, which also applies to child care facilities, is not valid because it was imposed by Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam without legal authorization.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September reported that schools without a universal masking policy in place were more likely to have COVID-19 outbreaks.

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“Nationwide, counties without masking requirements saw the number of pediatric COVID-19 cases increase nearly twice as quickly during this same period,” the CDC wrote.

Schools in Bucks County were among the first to announce that face masks are no longer required in the wake of the state Supreme Court ruling.

In a letter addressed to the community, Bensalem Township School District Superintendent Samuel Lee on Sunday said that the mask mandate is vacated effective immediately. Lee noted that masks will still be required on school buses, which are subject to a federal mandate.

Central Bucks School District and Pennridge School District similarly announced that masks will now be optional for students and staff.

For Neshaminy School District students, masks are recommended, but not required. Neshaminy staff and contractors are expected to wear masks indoors when within 6 feet of students and/or other staff, however.

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In Chester County, face masks are recommended, but not required in Oxford Area School District.

Other Philly area schools have declined to lift face mask requirements, including the School District of Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, a federal judge on Dec. 9 denied a request from a group of parents who sought to stop Gov. Phil Murphy’s school mask requirement.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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