September 10, 2021
Over the past several days since the mandatory mask order was put in place, I have received numerous requests for clarification regarding the order itself, and, specifically, why the District would not accept long-term parent exemptions. In order to respond to the inquiries that I have received, as well as the many the entire commonwealth is facing, all 500 school districts received clarity surrounding whether or not parent exemptions are acceptable. We received clarification late this afternoon.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education informed all school districts that: “this Order is not a mask optional policy. Any school entity simply permitting a parent’s sign-off without evidence that the student has a medical or mental health condition or disability that precludes the wearing of a face covering is not in compliance with the Order. Under the Order, and as set forth in PDE’s Answers to FAQs, school entities must require all individuals, two years of age and older, to wear face coverings unless the individual has a medical or mental health condition or disability that precludes the wearing of a face covering. In accordance with Section 3 of the Order, before an individual is excepted from the Order, all alternatives to a face covering, including a face shield, are to be exhausted. It is recommended that any exception be in accordance with eligibility under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act or IDEA for such medical or mental health condition or disability. School entities should follow their established processes for determining student eligibility under those laws, including any medical documentation that they would normally require. There are exceptions to the Order; however, a parent’s opposition to the Order is not one of them.”
Additionally, all 500 school districts were made aware that “on Wednesday, PDE issued a communication to a school district that has exhibited significant non-compliance with the Acting Secretary of Health’s Face Coverings Order. While this letter responds to a specific set of circumstances in a single school entity, the cautions and conditions are broadly applicable to all school entities – both public and nonpublic.”
As you can see, this decision has removed any ambiguity regarding whether or not this is a local decision. We are required to adhere to the Order. Please contact your child’s principal to provide them with the acceptable medical exemption as described above or make arrangements for a face shield to be provided to your child if you feel it is a better option. I apologize for the lateness of this email, but I felt it was prudent to make you aware of the clarification we received and the conditions in which we are currently working.
Thank you again for your patience and understanding as we work through this together.
Mr. Michael J. Vuckovich