(WETM) – Students, teachers, and staff in Pennsylvania are either back or close to returning to the classroom after a year of remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
School districts across the country that received any American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief are required to publically release a return to school health and safety plan that details a safe return to school.
Included in that plan is whether or not school districts will require masks. In New York, Governor Hochul issued a state-wide school mask mandate, but in Pennsylvania, Republican lawmakers have required Governor Wolf’s call for a school mask mandate.
The majority of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts are not requiring masks as students return to class, and just 36% of Pennsylvania residents between the ages of 12 and 17 are fully vaccinated, according to recent federal data. Children under 12 are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Here are which school districts in the Northern Tier will and won’t require a mask to start the school year.
Athens Area School District: Encouraged
Mask wearing is optional at Athens Area School District “at this time” except for when on transportation, according to Superintendent Craig Stage. “I do strongly encourage and recommend the wearing of masks for students under the age of 12, students and staff who are not vaccinated,” said Stage in a letter to parents.
Wildcat Parents/Guardian and students,
We have had a very successful start to our 2021-2022 school year. It was so very amazing to see all the students excitedly return to another awesome school year.
As we look forward to having everyone in our buildings on Monday, August 30th, I wanted to revisit a few items that will be crucial to our ability to keeping schools open and in-person learning our #1 priority.
• We need our parents and guardians to contact us if you or your child are exposed to COVID-19 or have tested positive for COVID-19. As a district, we will still be working with the PA Department of Health for contact tracing and quarantining of students and staff who test positive for COVID-19 or become a close contact. PLEASE, PLEASE do not send your child to school if they are sick and presenting any COVID related symptoms. I cannot stress this enough!!! Call your child’s building and we will assist you if you are unsure what to do. A flow chart has been added to our website under the COVID-19 tab to help you to determine if your child needs to quarantine.
• If your child is required to isolate or quarantine due to COVID we will work with each individual family to provide materials so that they can continue their lessons. We will be utilizing Schoology/Seesaw for students to get their materials. We do have technology available if needed. And if access to the internet is an issue, we will work with you to get hard copies of the material. A child will need to complete assignments while quarantined to not be considered an absence from school.
• Mask wearing is optional at this time, except for when on transportation which mask wearing is still required. I do strongly encourage and recommend the wearing of masks for students under the age of 12, students and staff who are not vaccinated, and anyone who simply wants an added layer of safety mitigation. We will still offer numerous opportunities for mask breaks if needed.
• COVID-19 Notifications. The district will maintain a COVID-19 dashboard that will be found under the COVID-19 tab on the district website. We will post on Facebook COVID-19 notification only to the impacted building(s). We may adjust this at any time depending on the extent of the COVID-19 related issue.
As we begin our 3rd year of school that has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic it’s as important as ever that we continue to work together, collectively and collaboratively, to make sure we can keep our students in school and learning in a safe and healthy environment. Every day counts when we are building foundations for future success. #WildcatPrideCraig Stage, Superintendent of Schools Athens Area School District
Canton Area School District: Optional
The Canton Area School District says masks will not be required for students, staff, and visitors while inside schools. Masks will be required while riding district transportation such as school busses.
The district says they will continue to evaluate the situation and work with state health officials to determine if a mask mandate is necessary in the future.
Galeton Area School District: Encouraged
Galeton Area School District says they will “encourage” everyone on school property to properly wear a facemask, but masking will be a “parental choice.” Non-vaccinated individuals will be encouraged to wear a mask while on school property.
Northeast Bradford School District: Optional
The Northeast Bradford School District says masks will be encouraged but are ultimately optional.
Northern Tioga School District: Optional
Northern Tioga School District announced that wearing masks while on school grounds will be optional this year. Masks will be required on public transportation such as school buses.
Sayre Area School District: Optional
The Sayre Area School District says that while the PDOH is recommending masks be worn indoors, it is not a requirement.
“Therefore the District will allow individuals in our buildings including but not limited to students, parents, staff and others to choose whether to wear masks until and unless the CDC or the Pennsylvania Department of Health, or some other regulatory body, requires masking, or local and/or school circumstances warrant the need to require masking.”
Southern Tioga School District: Optional
Southern Tioga School District’s plan states that the district will “communicate effective face covering practices to all students and staff” as well as “follow any current face covering requirements established by the PA DOH and PDE.”
Towanda Area School District: Optional
Masks will be optional in the Towanda Area School District except on transportation.
Troy Area School District: Required
The Troy Area School District will require students, staff, and visitors to wear face coverings while inside school buildings. The mandate will also include bus rides, indoor sporting events, and extra-curricular activities.
Superintendent Dr. Eric T. Stair released a statement on the district’s website regarding the mandate, saying the goal is to have students safe and in school five days a week.
Dear Trojan Family,
I wanted you all to be aware of the following information regarding required masking for our district.Based on recommendations from the CDC, DOH and our local health officials within our community, along with recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The Troy Area school district will require all students and bus drivers (when present on the bus) to wear face coverings to and from school and to all athletic/extracurricular events, and field trips.
The district will require that all students, visitors, and staff wear masks as recommended by CDC and DOH while inside the school buildings to include indoor sports and extra-curricular activities. As a district we are concerned about the safety and welfare of our students, faculty, and staff. We are concerned with spreading the COVID illness and concerned with keeping our schools open. We want our students to be safe and remain in school 5-days per week in the classroom with their teachers.
When having to conduct close contact tracing in the school, the CDC has made it clear that when students are wearing masks appropriately, the students would not be considered close contacts and would not have to be excluded from school.
For these reasons we feel the safest way to protect everyone in the school given the current COVID pandemic, is to require everyone to wear masks while on the bus and while inside the school buildings to include indoor sports and extra-curricular activities.
The administrative regulation regarding how our administrative team will enforce masking for the students is listed below.
1st offense – Parent is called. Parent will be reminded that student is required to wear a mask in school as per the health & safety plan- otherwise student needs a 504 plan with medical documentation. The parent may contact the support services department to inquire about a 504 plan. Parents will be made aware that if the student continues to violate the expectation by not wearing a mask then the school would be placing their student into the Troy Virtual Academy. A parent letter would be sent home including this information
2nd offense- parent phone call (student is reminded that a mask is required unless medical documentation is provided)- without medical documentation you are required to wear a mask as per the health & safety plan. A parent letter would be sent home reminding them that a third offense results in non-disciplinary enrollment of the student in the Troy Virtual Academy for the safety and welfare of the other students in the building
3rd offense parent phone call- student gets sent home (student becomes enrolled in the Troy Virtual Academy for the safety and welfare of the other students in the building)
Sincerely,DR. ERIC T. STAIR
SUPERINTENDENT TROY AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT
Wellsboro Area School District: Required
According to a letter released by Wellsboro Area School District Superintendent Dr. Brenda M. Freeman Superintendent, masks will be required when Tioga County reaches “substantial or high” transmission levels.
According to the CDC, as of Aug. 30, Tioga County is in a “high” transmission level with a 12.03 percent 7-day positivity average.
Dear Hornet Family,
The intent of this letter is to communicate the following information regarding required masking for our district:
Bus Riders: Based on federal regulations, the Wellsboro Area School District will require all students and bus drivers (when present on the bus) to wear face coverings to and from school and to all athletic/extracurricular events, and field trips regardless of the Tioga County community transmission level.
In School: Based on the recommendations from the CDC, DOH, our local health officials within our community, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, masks will be required in school when Tioga County community transmission level reaches substantial or high. This designation will be reported using the CDC COVID DATA TRACKER. Please note that the number of cases is per 100,000 residents. Since we do not have 100K residents living in Tioga County, the case number is calculated using this formula: if there are 28 cases in Tioga County that number is divided by 40,591 Tioga County residents. This records our cases as: 68.98/100K.
As of 8/26/21, Tioga County is designated as substantial community spread. Therefore, at this time, the District will require that all students, visitors, and staff wear masks as recommended by CDC and DOH while inside the school buildings to include indoor sports and extra-curricular activities.
The Wellsboro Area School District is an Equal Opportunity Employer and is in compliance with Title VI and Title IX.
As a district we are concerned about the safety and welfare of our students, faculty, and staff. We are concerned with spreading the COVID illness and concerned with keeping our schools open. We want our students to be safe and remain in school 5-days per week in the classroom with their teachers.
When having to conduct close contact tracing in the school, the CDC has made it clear that when students are wearing masks appropriately and are social distanced, the students would not be considered close contacts of a positive case and would not have to be excluded from school.
The following administrative regulation regarding how our administrative team will enforce masking for the students is listed below.
If a student refuses to wear a mask – student will be sent home. Parent will be reminded that student is required to wear a mask in school as per the WASD Board of Education’s Health & Safety Plan – otherwise student needs a 504 plan with medical documentation. The parent may contact the support services department to inquire about a 504 plan. In addition, other educational options will be discussed.
Thank you in advance for your cooperation in this matter.
Sincerely,Dr. Brenda M. Freeman Superintendent, WASD
Wyalusing Area School District: Recommended
The Wyalusing Area School District is recommending that everyone on school property wear a mask and says they will work with local, state, and federal health officials if there is a mask mandate issued.
Pennsylvania’s two statewide teachers unions last week urged K-12 schools to require masks in school buildings, citing the threat of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masks in schools for students, staff and teachers.
But masking is a highly contentious issue, and school board meetings have been the scene of heated debate as parents argue for and against. School directors in one of the state’s largest districts, Central Bucks outside Philadelphia, rejected a mask mandate by a 5-4 vote on Wednesday night after hearing passionate pleas from both sides.
The Associated Press contributed to this report