At least 10 local school districts plan to keep masks optional for the 2021-22 school year

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch
Principal Michael Snedden welcomes students to York Suburban Middle School as they return for the first time in six months following the COVID-19 shutdown, Wednesday, August 19, 2020. Sixth and ninth grade students started a day earlier than the rest of the district due to moving up to bigger schools.
John A. Pavoncello photo

The health and safety plans recently approved by local school districts suggest a return to normal for most York County students and teachers at the start of the school year. 

At least 10 districts have approved their health and safety plans for the 2021-22 school year, which must be submitted by July 30 in order to be eligible for COVID-19 relief funds. All 10 plan to keep masks optional, and none plans to require COVID-19 vaccines for students and staff. 

The plans indicate that most of the county's public schools will start the year with a traditional class schedule. Each of the 10 districts either did not mention a return to a hybrid or remote model, or clarified their intent to offer five days of in-person instruction each week in their plans. 

More:At board meetings around York County, parents railed against mask, vaccine mandates for next school year. No district was proposing any

More:Parents pressure West Shore, Eastern York school boards against mask mandates when no mandates are planned

All of the approved plans followed similar strategies for COVID-19 safety and mitigation, with only minor differences between the plans. For instance, each district included its own variations for cleaning techniques and proactive measures such as symptom screening. 

The 10 plans are more lax than the new COVID-19 guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The guidance recommends schools require masks for unvaccinated individuals when indoors, and encourages students to remain 3 feet apart. The approved safety plans include a more relaxed version of distancing, keeping students separated when feasible, but not at all times. 

More:CDC recommends unvaccinated individuals wear masks indoors at K-12 schools

Most of the CDC recommendations are for K-12 schools, but the CDC is still requiring people to wear masks on public transportation, including on school buses. Most of the plans do not mention the district's mask policy on buses, except for South Western and Northeastern school districts' plans, which clarify that masks will still be required on buses. West Shore School District's plan states that masks will be optional on buses, unless wearing them is required by state or federal agencies. 

Although all 10 plans include less intense protocols compared with what was in place last year during the height of the pandemic, dozens of parents across York County have testified against the plans during school board meetings over the last month. Most of the concerns focused on masking policies, and fear that districts will have to comply with future state or federal mandates. 

In most cases, the boards approved the health and safety plans despite the parents' concerns.