There’s been a flurry of activity nationwide around masks in schools.
Last week, officials in seven states announced their school mask requirements were ending. Some are considering going even further and banning schools from setting universal mask mandates. That’s despite the current recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that all students and adults age 2 and older wear face coverings in schools to protect themselves and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
When states get rid of mask policies, it puts the onus on district leaders to decide whether or not to require students and staff to mask up. That’s a high-stakes decision that greatly impacts vulnerable students and their families. It’s also complex. Districts have to weigh multiple factors that go beyond just community infection rates.
And when state officials ban universal mask mandates in schools, whether by law or by executive action, leaders in districts that have them have to pivot or, as has happened elsewhere, defy their state.
Education Week has been monitoring state-level mask policies this school year. To help the K-12 community brace for the impact of upcoming changes, here’s a look at what’s ahead:
What’s going on with mask requirements?
- Currently, 13 states and the District of Columbia require masks to be worn in schools, down from a high of 18 states and the District of Columbia earlier this school year.
- By March 31, requirements in six of these states will have ended. Those states are Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Rhode Island.
- Only a handful of states have not announced a final end date for their mask requirements, although some are set to expire in coming weeks. California is planning to reassess their mandate on Feb. 28.
What about mask mandate bans?
- Currently, four states have bans in effect that prevent school districts from setting universal mask mandates: Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah.
- Six additional states have such bans, but they have been blocked or suspended by the courts.
- In recent weeks, legislation has been introduced in some states, including Virginia and West Virginia, that would ban schools from requiring masks or would allow parents to opt out of any mask requirement.
Want to know your state’s policy? Education Week is tracking state policies on masking in school here.