The School District of Philadelphia lifted its mask mandate after the city announced that masks are no longer required in most indoor spaces.
The district lifted the mask mandate on March 9, one week after Philadelphia health officials announced that Philadelphia is in the "All Clear" phase of the COVID-19 precautions tier. The positivity rate in Philadelphia has declined substantially since the Omicron surge, with an average of 47 cases per day. Additionally, 86% of the School District staff and 75% of Philadelphians over the age of 12 are now fully vaccinated.
To minimize COVID-19 transmission, the district will temporarily reinstitute the mask mandate from April 18-22, the week after its spring break. Additionally, it will continue to offer other programs like hand sanitizing stations and personal hygiene signage in all schools. Free COVID-19 testing will continue to be available for students, parents, and guardians at the District’s mobile testing sites.
Citing a “responsibility to move our School District community closer to a sense of normalcy,” Superintendent William Hite wrote in a message to families and staff that masks will be optional for all students and staff in the School District, excluding those in the Pre-K Head Start program.
In the message, Hite wrote that families should continue to follow health guidelines such as keeping children at home if they are sick, testing children if they are showing COVID-19 symptoms, and quarantining them if they test positive.
Penn has also dropped its indoor mask mandate for non-classroom indoor spaces, and the School District of Philadelphia joins several other large school districts like New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago that have also made indoor masking optional for students.
Hite also encouraged families, students, and staff to respect others’ decisions regarding the mask mandate removal.
“Please thoughtfully consider your personal situation and family circumstances, and do what is best for you or your child — and respect everyone else’s right to do the same, even if their choice differs from yours,” Hite wrote.
“We are in a much safer space than we were a few months ago, even a few weeks ago," Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said. "And so we no longer need to require these restrictions, people can go about their lives, feel a little more normal."