School mask tracker: Who is and isn’t loosening the rules

Elected officials in several states have made mask mandates illegal, saying the decision should be left to parents
By: | October 18, 2021

Mask mandates remain in place in several districts and states across the country as the latest wave of COVID infections, hospitalizations and deaths are declining.

Many districts that were hit hard with cases and school closures in August and September, particularly in the South, are returning to mask-optional policies.

Some districts in Upper Midwest, on the other hand, are returning to universal masking this fall.

There have been fewer closures in the Northeast and West, where closed open later with strict mask requirements in place.


MAP: Districts’ operational status across the U.S.


Here’s a state-by-state roundup of mandates and districts loosening their requirements:

ALABAMA: Mountain Brook Schools made masks optional as of Oct. 18. Masks are “strongly encouraged but not required” in Bibb County Schools as of Oct. 12. Hoover City Schools, in the Birmingham suburbs, made mask optional on Oct. 6 based on the district’s own “Face Covering Matrix Procedures,” which follows the seven-day percentage of student positive cases.

Henry County Schools, Geneva County Schools, Dothan City Schools, Houston County Schools, and Geneva City Schools all canceled mask mandates in early October, according to the Dothan Eagle.

Birmingham, Huntsville, Bessemer and Opelika school systems are requiring masks indoors, according to U.S. News & World Report.

ALASKA: Fairbanks North Star Borough School District has mandated masks through December.

Anchorage Public Schools has required face coverings for all students, staff and visitors.

ARIZONA: The state’s bans on school mask and vaccine mandates were found unconstitutional by a judge on Sept. 27, AZCentral.com reported.

The Phoenix Union High School District and Phoenix Elementary School District have mandated masks.

ARKANSAS: Fort Smith Public Schools ended its mask mandate on Oct. 11 “after a significant and steady decline in the number of COVID positive cases,” the district said on Facebook. Masks are still strongly encouraged.

Rogers Public Schools discontinued its mandate on Oct. 8 though administrators are still strongly encouraging students to wear masks.

Waldron Public Schools enacted a mask mandate for 30 days, starting Sept. 8. Pine Bluff School District announced a mask mandate on Aug. 12.

CALIFORNIA: California will require all students to wear masks.

COLORADO: Douglas County School District extended its mask mandate on Oct. 1 despite the expiration of a county order for masking in schools. Dropping the district’s requirement would increase the risk of quarantines and school closures, Superintendent Corey Wise said on Facebook.

Denver Public Schools is requiring all students and staff to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

Jeffco Public Schools and the Poudre School District are also requiring masks.

CONNECTICUT: An executive order remains in place that requires unverisal masking in all school buildings.

DELAWARE: Gov. John Carney’s statewide school mask mandate goes into effect on Aug. 16.

FLORIDA: The following districts have mandated masks this school year, despite the governor’s ban: Lake County Schools, Polk County Public Schools, Volusia County Schools, Brevard County Public Schools, The School District of Lee County, Orange County Public Schools, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Hillsborough County Schools, The School District of Palm Beach County, Orange County Public Schools, Broward County Public Schools, and Duval County Public Schools.

Some of those districts are allowing parents to opt-out.

GEORGIA: Henry County Schools, a medium-size district in the Atlanta suburbs, shifted from requiring masks to strongly encouraging them on Oct. 15.

Marietta City Schools has made mask optional as of Oct. 16, CBS46.com reported. Bryan County School district will become mask optional when students return from a fall break on Oct. 13, Fox28Media.com reported.

Though the state’s governor declared districts could not rely on the state to mandate masks, Gwinnett County Public Schools officials have required face coverings. Masks are also mandated in City Schools of Decatur. Glynn County Schools has mandated universal masks in schools buildings and on buses.

HAWAII: “Masks must always be worn correctly and consistently by all students and staff when indoors,” the state’s Department of Education says on its website.

IDAHO: The Weiser School District discontinued a temporary mask mandate that was put in place in September, the Argus Observer reported.

The Boise School District has reinstated a mask mandate.

ILLINOIS: Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker has issued a statewide mask mandate for K-12 schools.

INDIANA: Greater Clark County Schools in Indiana reinstituted a mask mandate after  70 students tested positive for COVID within the first eight days of school, Superintendent Mark Laughner said on the district’s website.

The South Bend Community School Corporation, which had previously required masks for elementary school students, has now mandated them for all staff and students, the South Bend Tribune reported.

Richmond Community Schools have also mandated masks for all staff and students, the Richmond Palladium-Item reported.

Noblesville Schools, Hamilton Southeastern schools, Carmel Clay Schools, MSD Lawrence Township and MSD of Pike Township have also mandated masks, Fox59.com reported.

IOWA: West Burlington Independent School District dropped its mask mandate on Oct. 8.

The Ankeny and Johnston community school districts both imposed mask mandates on Sept. 21, WeAreIowa.com reported. Council Bluffs Community School District issued a mask mandate on Sept. 14 after a judge blocked Gov. Kim Renoylds’ ban on requiring face coverings in schools.

Urbandale Community School District’s new mask mandate goes into effect on Sept. 20. Ames Community School District‘s mask mandate begins on Sept. 17.

The Iowa City Community School DistrictCedar Rapids Community School District and West Des Moines Community Schools have also mandated masks.

KANSAS: Wichita Public Schools’ mask mandate went into effect on Aug. 30.

KENTUCKY: The Kentucky legislature struck down Gov. Andy Beshear’s mask mandate, leaving the decision to local school districts, NPR reported.

LOUISIANA: The statewide mask mandate reinstated by Gov. John Bel Edwards on Aug. 2 requires everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks indoors, including in schools.

MAINE: RSU 16 requires masks in all its buildings, the Sun Journal reported. The Brewer School Department has mandated masks due to an uptick in cases as staff prepares for the first day of school.

MARYLAND: The state’s board of education has approved a statewide mask mandate, The Baltimore Sun reported.

MASSACHUSETTS: The state’s school mask mandate has been extended until Nov. 1, but middle and high schools can apply for an exemption if 80% of students and staff are vaccinated.

MICHIGAN: Norway-Vulcan Area Schools mandated masks as of Oct. 18 due to a spike in COVID cases, The Iron Mountain Daily News reported.

The Clintondale Community School District has mandated masks as of Oct. 18. Lakeshore Public Schools mandated masks on Oct. 11.

St. Charles Community Schools has instituted a mask mandate, MLive.com reported. Carney-Nadeau Public School instituted a mask mandate Sept. 27 as it reopened after a week-long closure.

Lakewood Public Schools reinstituted its mask mandate on Sept. 19. “I’m sure everyone had hoped this wouldn’t be the case for this school year and one may ask why now?” Superintendent Steven Skalka said in a letter to the community. “Quite simply, the transmission rate among school-aged students continues to increase.”

Rogers City Area Schools mandated masks as of Sept. 21.vWashtenaw County, in the Detroit area, has required masks in all schools. Oakland and Wayne counties previously mandated masks, WXYZ.com reported.

MINNESOTA: Fergus Falls Public Schools mandated masks for students in pre-K through 6th grade on Oct. 4.

Two of the state’s largest districts have announced they will require face coverings regardless of age or vaccination status. Minneapolis Public Schools’ mandate takes effect on Aug. 9. Saint Paul Public Schools’ mandate went into effect on Aug. 18.

MISSISSIPPI: The Forrest County School District in Mississippi made masks optional on Oct. 18.

Madison County Schools made masks optional on Oct. 4, the Clarion-Ledger reported.

MISSOURI: Cape Girardeau Public Schools stopped requiring masks on Oct. 15. The Jefferson City School District in Missouri ended its mask mandate on Oct. 1.

The Farmington School District is loosening its mask requirements. With COVID cases dropping sharply, its mandate ends Sept. 27, after which students designated close contacts can remain in school if they wear close-fitting masks for the 14 days following exposure. The district still strongly recommends that students wear masks when social distancing is not possible.

Several schools in the St. Louis area, including St. Louis Public Schools, have mandated masks for the beginning of schools, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported.

MONTANA: Missoula County Public Schools in Montana and the Albany County School District 1, headquarters in Laramie, Wyoming, both extended mask mandates in mid-October.

The Bozeman School District is requiring face masks. The district’s superintendent can lift the mandates for certain grades based on transmission data, KULR8.com reported.

Helena Public Schools has mandated masks for pre-K to 8 students and staff when classes begin the week of Aug. 30, the Independent Record reported.

NEBRASKA: Omaha Public Schools—one of the first large, urban school districts to return in-person in 2020—has mandated masks to start the 2021-22 school year.

Kearney Public Schools will require masks from until at least Oct. 15.

In rural Auburn Public Schools, masks will be required if 8% of students are absent due to COVID, according to News Channel Nebraska.

NEVADA: The Carson City School District has mandated masks until at least Oct. 1. More than 500 students have been excluded from school for up to 10 days due to close contact tracing, the district said.

Gov. Steve Sisolak implemented universal mask mandates for the state’s two largest districts—Clark and Washoe counties.

NEW JERSEY: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has placed schools in his state under a universal mask mandate.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: The Newport School District dropped mask requirements in its middle and high school, the Valley News reported.

The Raymond School District mandated masks for its middle and elementary school on Oct. 6 after temporarily closing its high school due to a COVID outbreak.

The Dover School District has required masks for elementary and middle school students, and strongly recommends them for high school students, the Foster’s Daily Democrat reported.

The Nashua School District, the state’s second-largest, also mandated masks, NECN.com reported.

NEW MEXICO: Masks are required for all staff and students in elementary schools, and for unvaccinated staff and students in secondary schools.

NEW YORK: New York has mandated universal masks in schools statewide. New York City public schools had previously required universal masking in schools. All staff are also required to get vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID testing.

NORTH CAROLINA: Hartnett County Schools made mask optional on Oct. 4, despite having more than 400 students in quarantine, ABC News reported.

Beaufort County Schools’ Board of Education made masks optional on Oct. 5, WNCT.com reported.

Iredell-Statesville Schools, near Charlotte, mandated masks, beginning Sept. 2.

Wake County Public Schools, the state’s largest district, will require universal masking, regardless of vaccinations status, when the school year begins, The News & Observer reported.

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education approved a universal mask mandate in late July.

Watauga County Schools, Hickory Public Schools and Kannapolis City Schools have also mandated masks, WCNC.com reported.

Johnston County Schools mandated masks on Aug. 10.

The school districts of Jackson, Macon and Swain counties have mandated masks, according to SmokyMountainNews.com.

OHIO: Several districts have eased their masking policies in mid-October, including Huber Heights City Schools, Mount Vernon City Schools, the Jonathan Alder Local School District, the Clark-Shawnee Local School District, the Minford Local School District and Northwestern Local Schools.

North Adams Community Schools lifted its mask mandate on Oct. 14, WANE.com reported. Dover City Schools ended its mask mandate on Oct. 13, TimesReporter.com reported.

The East Palestine City School District mandated masks on Oct. 5 due to an increase in COVID cases.

Greenon Local School District will require masks until Oct. 22, the Springfield News-Sun reportedUrbana City Schools enacted a mask mandate on Sept. 22.

Switzerland of Ohio Local School District has mandated masks as of Sept. 20. Dover City School District mandated masks on Sept. 20, TimesReporter.com reportedSouthern Local School District now requires masks, and will review the mandate every two weeks.

Miamisburg City Schools mandated masks as of Sept. 13. Columbus City Schools will require masks inside school buildings, regardless of an individual’s age or vaccination status. Dayton Public Schools announced its mask mandate on Aug. 11.

OKLAHOMA: Claremore Public Schools‘ mask mandate goes into effect on Sept. 22.

The Putnam City Schools school board approved a mask mandate on Sept. 7, KOCO.com reported.

Tulsa Public Schools is the latest district to go against a state ban on mask mandates. Tulsa’s requirement went into effect on Sept. 7.

Santa Fe South Schools, a charter system in Oklahoma City, was the first district to defy Gov. Kevin Stitt’s ban on mask mandate, The Oklahoman reported.

Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel issued a mask mandate for his district on Aug. 13, saying COVID cases in the system had gone from the single to the triple digits in just the first three days of school.

Hulbert Public Schools mandated masks after closing temporarily.

OREGON: Masks will be required indoors at all public schools in the state, Gov. Kate Brown ordered on July 29.

PENNSYLVANIA: Gov. Tom Wolf on Aug. 31 imposed a mask mandate for all students and staff in schools statewide.

RHODE ISLAND: Gov. Dan McKee required universal masking in schools by executive order on Aug. 19.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Florence One Schools no longer requires masks as of Oct. 15, SCNow.com reported.

The Hampton County School District mandated masks on Oct. 7 “due to the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant.” The requirement will remain in place until at least Jan. 20, 2022.

Richland School District 2 reinstated a mask mandate on Sept. 30. Lexington School District 2 has imposed an emergency mask mandate through Oct. 31.

SOUTH DAKOTA: The Mitchell School District has mandated masks for anyone indoors on school property. The Yankton School District also requires masks, the Argus Leader reported.

TENNESSEE: Knox County Schools reinstituted a mask mandate on Sept. 27 following a court orderWilson County Schools approve a mask mandate, with an update clause, on Sept. 8.

Metro Nashville Public Schools, Shelby County Schools and Hancock County Schools are requiring universal masking,  Tennessean.com reported. Williamson County Schools on Aug. 26 expanded its mask mandate from elementary schools to its middle and high schools, the Tennessean.com reported.

Gov. Bill Lee on Aug 16. allowed families to opt-out of school mask mandates.

TEXAS: About 85 Texas districts have mandated masks, according to a list—maintained by Attorney General Ken Paxton—of school systems that are “not in compliance” with an executive order by Gov. Greg Abbott.

Districts that have mandated masks include Lockhart ISD, Waco ISD, Soccoro ISD, San Antonio ISD, Dallas ISD, Austin ISD, and Houston ISD.

UTAH: The Grand County School District extended its mask mandate until Nov. 9.

VERMONT: The statewide mask mandate has been extended through Nov. 1, VTDigger.com reported.

VIRGINIA: Gov. Ralph Northam announced a statewide school masks mandate on Aug. 12. Many districts had already mandated masks.

WASHINGTON: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee required all students and staff to wear masks in school buildings after the CDC revised tightened its recommendations due to the delta variant, vaccine hesitancy and the lack of a vaccine for younger students.

WASHINGTON, D.C.: District of Columbia Public School will require students and staff to wear masks when its buildings reopen fully for in-person learning in 2021-22, Superintendent Lewis Ferebee has announced.

WEST VIRGINIA: Tucker County Schools mandated masks on Sept. 10. The districts in Gilmer, Jackson, Wirt and Wood counties have mandated masks, The Parkersburg News and Sentinel reported. 

Doddridge County Schools mandated masks on Aug. 31 after 15 individuals in the school system tested positive for COVID in just four days, the district announced on Facebook. School districts in Barbour and Upshur counties will require masks indoors, according to WVNews.com.

WISCONSIN: The rural Unified School District of Antigo in northern Wisconsin enacted a mask mandate on Oct. 18 that will last until Christmas.

Lodi, Pardeeville, Reedsburg, Rio, River Valley and Wisconsin Dells districts started school without a mask mandate but have since required them, the Baraboo News Republic reported.

Only two districts — Cambria-Friesland and Weston — remain mask-optional, according to information available on their websites

The Richland School District mandated masks on Sept. 23. Chippewa Falls School District has mandated masks, the Leader-Telegram reported. The School District of Fort Atkinson has mandated masks through Oct. 26.

Milwaukee Public Schools will require students to wear masks when all of its buildings open for in-person learning in the fall, Superintendent Keith P. Posley announced in a blog on the district’s website.