More school districts are dropping mask mandates than are reinstating them as educators wait to see if the latest COVID wave will match past surges in severity.
The long-standing mask mandate in Saint Paul Public Schools in Minnesota comes to an end next Monday with COVID falling to low- to medium levels in surrounding Ramsey County. “While this change will be welcomed by many, we know that it may concern others,” said officials, adding that vaccination and testing will remain high priorities. “Staff and students will be supported in their decision to wear or not wear a mask.”
Two-year-old mandates are ending in two large California districts. Students in Sacramento City USD will no longer have to wear masks when spring break ends on April 18. Transmission has been low in Sacramento County for four straight weeks. “It’s still too soon to declare the pandemic is over, so please continue to practice the ‘self, family, community’ safety degrees as appropriate for your individual circumstances,” the district says on its website. “The need for masking may come and go, like the need for a jacket in winter.”
Nearby, Davis Joint USD lifted its mandate on Monday, recognizing the decision may create both anxiety and relief. “Although we may hold different opinions about face coverings, we expect our students, staff and visitors to continue to treat each other with respect, civility and understanding as it is likely there will be students and staff who choose to continue wearing a face covering, and many who choose not to continue wearing a face covering,” Davis Joint USD says on its website.
Down south, Montgomery Public Schools in Alabama lifted its mandate on Monday.
Another pandemic-long mandate may soon come to an end in Detroit, where Superintendent Nikolai Vitti may drop the requirement next week, Chalkbeat reported. The Detroit Public Schools Community District is one of only a few Michigan districts that still mandates masks, according to Chalkbeat. And Durham Public Schools, one of the last districts still requiring masks in North Carolina, dropped its requirement on Monday, ABC11.com reported.
But in Kansas’ Shawnee Mission School District, masks are mandatory again in six elementary schools where COVID cases have risen above 5%, KCUR.org reported.
School districts in several parts of the country have reported an uptick in COVID cases in recent days as the subvariant causes new infections in surrounding communities, particularly in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. The stiffest measure taken so far is in Philadelphia, which will reimpose a citywide indoor mask mandate beginning Monday. The mandate will cover schools, which will reopen after spring break on April 18.
School closures are even more scarce. Radnor Township School District in suburban Philadelphia will be remote next Monday, the first day after spring break, due to a rise in COVID cases among students and staff. This week, Maranacook High School in Maine returned to in-person learning after being remote for two weeks due to a staffing shortage caused by a COVID spike.