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: | September 20, 2021

Masks mandates are spreading across the country as large numbers of students and staff are testing positive or having to quarantine.

Even in the states where Republican governors this summer banned mask mandates, defiant superintendents are requiring that everyone wear face coverings inside buildings.

In Florida, Texas and Oklahoma, these disputes have ended up in court, where judges have overruled governors and allowed districts to mandate masks—temporarily, at least.

In Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida, the COVID positivity rate among students dropped by 23% since masks were mandated by an emergency rule on Aug. 18, district leaders said on Sept. 1.


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


Here’s a state-by-state roundup of mask mandates  during the delta variant surge:

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

Masks are required in Tuscaloosa City Schools until Sept. 10. Escambia County Public Schools has mandated masks until Sept. 24.

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: Earlier this summer, legislators banned mask mandates. But last week, the Phoenix Union High School District said everyone must wear masks indoors as all 32 zip codes covered by the system are seeing high or substantial spread of the delta variant.

“We have heard from our staff, students, and families that they want us to realign our mitigation practices with the guidelines and recommendations of national and local health agencies,” the district said on its website.

The Phoenix Elementary School District, after an emergency school board meeting, also reinstated universal masking.

“The Phoenix Elementary School District believes this is one viable option to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses we see at the beginning of a school year like the common cold, strep throat, and the flu,” the district said on its website.

ARKANSAS: Waldron Public Schools enacted a mask mandate for 30 days, starting Sept. 8.

Pine Bluff School District announced a mask mandate on Aug. 12.

Earlier this summer, Gov. Asa Hutchinson has asked the state’s legislature to provide an exception to state law the prohibits schools from requiring masks. Hutchinson has said he now regrets signed the bill because of the increased risks of the delta variant and students under 12 are not eligible for the vaccine.

CALIFORNIA: California will require all students to wear masks.

That’s because school facilities cannot accommodate the CDC’s recommendation to continue three feet of social distancing with all students returning to in-person learning, California Health & Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said on the agency’s website.

COLORADO: 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 until Sept. 30 that requires unverisal masking in all school buildings.

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

“There’s no higher priority than getting all Delaware children back in their classrooms full-time this fall,” Carney said in a statement. “This consistent, statewide approach will help students, educators and staff return to school safely and without disruption.

FLORIDA: Lake County Schools will require masks for two weeks when the positivity rate among staff and students in an individual school exceeds 5%.

Polk County Public Schools on Sept. 7 became the latest Florida district to mandate masks, WYFF4.com reported.

Volusia County Schools mandated masks on Aug 31. Its mandate will be in place until at least Oct. 15, when the school board will determine whether it should remain in place.

Brevard County Public Schools on Aug. 30 implemented universal masking for at least the next 30 days.

The School District of Lee County mandated masks, with no opt-out option, on Aug. 30, WINKnews.com reported.

Orange County Public Schools, which includes Orlando, is the ninth Florida district to mandate masks. Face coverings are required through October, ClickOrlando.com reported.

Florida schools administrators risk a loss of state funding if they violate a ban on mask mandates enacted on July 30. Gov. Ron DeSantis said requiring students to wear masks “lacks a well-grounded scientific justification” in an executive order that prohibits school COVID safety protocols from violating Floridians’ constitutional freedoms or parents’ right to make health care decisions for their children.

Sarasota County Schools mandated masks on Aug. 20.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Hillsborough County Schools on Aug. 18 both required all students and staff to wear masks on buses and in school buildings.

The number of students in quarantine in Hillsborough County has doubled to more than 10,000 just this week, account for nearly 5% of the student body. Less than 1% of the district’s students and staff have tested positive for COVID.

“It is difficult to compare the start of this school year to the first weeks of the 2020-21 school year because there were 83,488 students that opted for eLearning and were not on campus,” the district said on its website. “The state did not approve or fund e-learning this year so it cannot be an option.”

The School District of Palm Beach County is no longer allowing families to opt-out of its mask mandate, The Palm Beach Post reported.

Superintendent Barbara Jenkins also announced a mask mandate for Orange County Public Schools, which includes Orlando.
Hillsborough County Public Schools—which covers Tampa— and The School District of Lee County also announced that face coverings will be required as their 2021-22 academic years begin.

Broward County Public Schools leaders are sticking by their mask mandate after briefly suspending it due to DeSantis’ threat earlier this week to withhold funding from districts that required face coverings. The district is still reviewing DeSantis’ mask mandate ban with “variants of coronavirus running rampant in our community,” School Board Chair Rosalind Osgood said in a video posted to Broward County schools’ website.

Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Carlee Simon said all students will be required to wear masks for the first two weeks of school she said in a message to the community. That has since been extended by eight weeks.

Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna urged DeSantis to allow a temporary mask mandate for K-8 students. In early August, four school-aged children in Leon County have been admitted to the hospitals and two of Pre-K teachers are in intensive care, Hanna said in a letter to the governor.

Duval County Public Schools on Monday became the eighth district in the state to mandate masks, under a policy that goes into effect on Sept. 7, FirstCoastNews.com reported.

GEORGIA: Though the state’s governor declared districts could not rely on the state to mandate masks, Gwinnett County Public Schools officials said face coverings will be required when the school year starts. The district will allow parents to choose online learning and keep their children home.

But masks will remain a way of life in City Schools of Decatur near Atlanta. The district saw strong masking compliance among students last school year,  Superintendent Maggie Fehrman said at a town hall meeting, according to decaturish.com.

“It’s the least invasive strategy and it’s kind of a no-brainer for me,” Fehrman said, according to the website. “If we can help prevent the spread of COVID by wearing masks, and not just COVID but other airborne diseases, let’s do that, at least for the start of the school year and see how things go.”

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 West Ada School District is requiring masks until at least Sept. 24.

“Implementing a mask requirement for students (Pre-K-12) and staff is one way that West Ada can make a positive contribution to the community,” Superintendent Derek Bub said. “While we are not convinced that this will solve the COVID-19 pandemic, as leaders, we feel obligated to do our part. ”

The Boise School District has reinstated a mask mandate. “We know from last school year that face masks work to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Boise School Board President Dave Wagers said in a statement. “We’re disappointed that we have been forced to take what feels like a step backward, but our top priority is providing students with a high-quality education in a safe and effective learning environment.”

ILLINOIS: Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker issued a statewide mask mandate for K-12 schools late Wednesday. “Given our current trajectory in hospitalizations and ICU usage, we have a limited amount of time right now to stave off the highest peaks of this surge going into the fall,” Pritzker said in a statement.

Chicago Public Schools and several other Illinois had already mandated universal masking.

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: 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.

Houston Barber, superintendent of Frankfort Independent Schools and president of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, supported the mandate. His district, where masks are required for all, has seen no spread of COVID-19 since school started on Aug. 2.

“The small sacrifice and commitment to wear masks has opened up the world of opportunities for our students to be successful during in-person school,” Barber said in the statement. “We must remain faithful to this small sacrifice at this time to thrive and transform the lives and minds of our most precious gifts (students) without any disruption.”

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.

“We have the tools we need to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities and save lives, and I am pleading with unvaccinated Louisianans to get their shot as soon as they can to protect themselves,” Bel Edwards said. “We can end this nightmare, but it is going to take all of us working together to do it.”

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. The following districts has previously mandated masks: Harford County Public Schools, Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore County Public Schools, Montgomery County Public Schools and Prince George County Public Schools.

Districts in Baltimore, Calvert, Charles Frederick, Howard and St. Mary’s counties are also mandating masks, WTOP.com reported.

MASSACHUSETTS:  the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on Aug. 25 issued a statewide mask mandate for K-12 schools until at least early October, NBCBoston.com reported.

MICHIGAN: Washtenaw County, in the Detroit area, has required masks in all schools. Oakland and Wayne counties previously mandated masks, WXYZ.com reported.

Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services on June 25 released COVID guidelines Friday that urged the wearing of masks and continued social distancing and contract tracing in schools.

MINNESOTA: 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: Gulf Shores City Schools will require has required face masks inside school buildings and at indoor school events, Fox10TV.com reported.

MISSOURI: Elsberry R-2 School District implemented a mask mandate on Sept. 9 that will be reviewed by the school board each month.

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: 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 Sept. 7 until at least Oct. 15. “This should give our school system and local health officials the time needed to determine if we are effectively slowing the spread of the COVID Delta variant,” Superintendent Kent Edwards said in a message to the community. “We hope this will also take some pressure off of our local clinics and hospitals which are at capacity with COVID, RSV, and other illnesses.”

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 placed schools in his state under a universal mask mandate because of rising delta infections, the ineligibility of kids under 12 to get vaccinated, and lingering vaccine hesitancy among teens and adults who can get a shot.

New Jersey officials are adamant about conducting full-time, in-person instruction. “This is not an announcement that gives any of us, or me personally any pleasure, but as the school year approaches and numbers rapidly increase, it is the one we need to make right now,” Murphy said at a press conference. “Anyone telling you we can safely reopen our schools without requiring masks is quite simply lying to you.”

NEW HAMPSHIRE: 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: 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.

NORTH DAKOTA: Mandan Public Schools now recommends but does not require masks, KX News reported.

OHIO: Southern 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. “The district’s goal is to keep students and staff safe, and provide high-quality, in-person instruction in an effort to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on education,” Dayton said on its website.

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. “My priority is to ensure our kids are able to safely return to full-time in-person learning this fall, five days per week and with minimal disruptions,” Brown said. “With many children still ineligible to be vaccinated, masks are an effective way to help keep our kids safe in the classroom, the learning environment we know serves them best.”

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

“My office has received an outpouring of messages from parents asking us to protect children by requiring masks in schools,” Wolf tweeted. “I preferred for local school boards to make this decision. But an aggressive nationwide campaign is pressuring school districts to adopt unsafe policies.”

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

SOUTH CAROLINA: Lexington School District 2 has imposed an emergency mask mandate through Oct. 31. In just the first three weeks of the school year, more than 2,000 students already have tested positive or are in quarantine—nearly a quarter of the district’s total students, and more than three times the total students from all of last school year, the district said.

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: Wilson 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, saying on Twitter “No one cares more about the health & well-being of a child than a parent.”

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.

Lockhart ISD mandated masks on Sept. 4. On that date, more than 180 students in the district had active cases of COVID, Superintendent Mark Estrada said.

Waco ISD on Aug. 26 mandated masks, beginning Aug. 30, due to “increasingly dire reports from local health care experts,” Superintendent Susan Kincannon said on the district’s website.

“In my visits to schools this week, I was heartened to see many (but by no means all) of our students and employees voluntarily wearing masks,” Kincannon wrote. “Masks have repeatedly been shown to reduce the spread of the virus, and increasing the number of people wearing masks will make our schools a safer place in the midst of this pandemic.”

The school board in Paris ISD in East Texas voted to make masks a part of the district dress code, The Dallas Morning News reported. “The Board believes the dress code can be used to mitigate communicable health issues, and therefore has amended the PISD dress code to protect our students and employees,” the district said on its website. “The Texas Governor does not have the authority to usurp the Board of Trustees’ exclusive power and duty to govern and oversee the management of the public schools of the district.”

El Paso and Soccoro ISD also announced mask mandates, in compliance with city requirements for face coverings indoors.

San Antonio ISD announced masks would be required for all staff and students starting Wednesday. Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent P. Scribner announced a mask mandate for his district, with school set to start on Aug. 16.

On Aug. 9, Dallas ISD issued a temporary mask mandate, declaring “Governor Abbott’s order does not limit the district’s rights as an employer and educational institution to establish reasonable and necessary safety rules for its staff and students. Dallas ISD remains committed to the safety of our students and staff.”

Austin ISD was the second large Texas district to require universal masking, regardless of an individual’s age or vaccination status.

The Houston Federation of Teachers expresses strong support for the mask mandate put in place by Houston ISD on Aug. 11. “We strongly support the superintendent’s decision to buck the governor and implement a mask mandate for everyone entering Houston school buildings,” Jackie Anderson, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, said in a statement.  “Gov. Abbott is on the wrong side of science, health and safety.”

UTAH: The state’s legislature passed a mask mandate ban on May 20, the Deseret News 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: 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.