Masks in School Legislation Introduced in Harrisburg

masks in schoolImage via Pennsylvania Senate Democrats

HARRISBURG, PA — State Senators Nikil Saval (D-Philadelphia) and Judy Schwank (D-Berks County) announced they will soon introduce legislation to support Governor Tom Wolf’s call for mask mandates in the state. Senator Schwank’s forthcoming bill would require general indoor masking in early childhood education and childcare programs on a conditional basis for those over the age of 2, regardless of vaccination status. Senator Saval’s bill would require school districts to implement universal indoor masking within K-12 classrooms.

Both pieces of legislation will be introduced in the wake of Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman and House Speaker Bryan Cutler rejecting the Governor’s request for the General Assembly to reconvene and approve a statewide requirement for masks to be worn in schools. According to the health and safety plans submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), currently fewer than 10% of schools have enacted a masking policy, which is counter to CDC guidance for K-12 schools.

“The past 18 months have been devastating for all of us, but schoolchildren—isolated from their friends, teachers, and school support systems—have experienced a particular and acute version of this trauma. We need to do everything in our power to ensure that kids can return to their schools, while simultaneously ensuring that teachers, family members, and communities can stay safe. In-door masking policies, as part of a school’s COVID prevention strategy, are effective to the degree that transmission levels in schools are often lower than community transmission levels. For the physical and mental safety of our children and the stability of working families throughout the Commonwealth, it’s crucial that PA schools adhere to CDC guidance and implement universal indoor masking,” said Senator Saval.

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The call for a statewide mask mandate in schools has been supported by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

“The COVID-19 pandemic badly exacerbated the problems we face with childcare. The closing of childcare facilities has adversely affected our workforce, especially the role of women in our workforce. I know for parents and guardians across the commonwealth, the health and safety of their children is their highest priority. Because a lot of children are still unable to get vaccinated and the uncertainty around new variants, we need to do everything we can to ensure our youngest students, educators, childcare workers and all staff are protected,” said Senator Schwank.

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