Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said on Tuesday that students, teachers and staff will be required to wear masks in K-12 schools under a new statewide health order, so that the cases of Covid-19 jump from the Delta variant and the school year begins.
The ordinance will apply to public and private schools, early learning programs and day care centers, and will take effect on September 7. The ordinance does not apply to school sports or outdoor activities.
“Requiring masks in schools will keep our students and the classroom safe, where we all want them to be,” said Wolf, a Democrat.
He had asked state lawmakers last week to return to session to pass a mask mandate, but they refused.
The governor said he would have preferred to let local school districts make the decisions, but that an “aggressive nationwide campaign is spreading misinformation about mask wearing and pressuring and intimidating school districts to they reject mask policies that will keep children safe and in school. “
The issue has been controversial statewide, with parents on both sides voicing their views in often heated school board meetings. Republican lawmakers, who control the Legislature, said they believe mask rules should be set by local officials based on local conditions.
“The governor again claims he knows better than our boardroom neighbors and parents of students,” Rep. Torren Ecker, a Republican, said in a statement.
A statewide mask rules map released by Mr Ecker showed that the vast majority of school districts in the state had some form of optional mask wearing, as opposed to the mandatory requirement of the governor.