Students and school employees must abide by Secretary of Health Rachel Levine's order requiring all Pennsylvanians to wear a mask while in the public, the state Department of Education confirmed in an email to educators Thursday.
Levine signed the order Wednesday amid a resurgence of the coronavirus in parts of the state, particularly Allegheny County, and the country.
The email sent from the office of Education Secretary Pedro Rivera Friday states the rule goes into effect immediately and applies to "all individuals while in school entities."
"For the safety of students, staff and families, and to avoid community spread of COVID-19, students and staff are considered to be members of the public who are congregating in indoor location," the email states. "As such, they are required to adhere to this Order."
The order applies to all children ages 2 and older.
Under the Education Department's preliminary reopening guidance, schools planning to reopen in the fall must first adopt a school-board approved health and safety plan. As of Friday, only Lampeter-Strasburg has approved a plan, which "strongly encourages" mask-wearing.
Lampeter-Stasburg's plan, and others across the county, must now reflect Levine's order, the Education Department's email states, likely making it necessary for the school board to reapprove the plan.
Potential exceptions to wearing a mask include those who cannot wear a mask or face shield due to a medical condition, a mental health issue or physical disability.
Students who must wear masks are allowed remove them only under specific circumstances — such as eating or drinking and sitting in class — and as long as they maintain six feet of social distance.
As for athletics, coaches, athletes and spectators must wear face coverings unless they can consistently stay six feet apart; however, athletes aren‘t required to wear face coverings while actively participating in practice or competition, the Education Department said.