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Some school districts drop former mandate rules, except on buses

SV cites high transmission, keeps masking requirements

About half of the county's schools made the shift to go maskless Monday.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Friday to rescind the statewide mandate of masks imposed by the state's Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam. The mandate called for universal masking of all students, staff and visitors at kindergarten through grade 12 schools until Jan. 17.

Butler Area, Karns City Area, Moniteau, Seneca Valley and South Butler County school districts all posted updated policies to their respective websites over the weekend. All but Seneca Valley School District have rescinded universal masking.

All of those school posts included information about the ruling, and each noted the districts would revert to their individually approved health and safety plans.

“That plan stipulates that wearing a mask is recommended, but not required for students in school,” said Butler Superintendent Brian White in his statement.

In his statement, South Butler County Superintendent David Foley said it will be the parents' responsibility to decide whether or not to mask their child.

“It is important that masking choices be respected and that all students and staff members feel comfortable wearing or not wearing a mask in school,” Foley said.

The announcing districts also noted they will support students, faculty and staff who still wish to wear masks.

“Anyone choosing to wear a mask may continue to do so, and masks will be available at each school upon request,” Moniteau's statement said.

Mask use on school buses is part of a separate federal mandate, so students will continue wearing masks on buses. Butler Area also specially noted masks will continue to be needed when entering its nurses' offices.

While most moved to remove the masks, Seneca Valley plans to rely on its data-driven health and safety plan.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define transmission levels as low, moderate, substantial and high, in that order of severity.

The Seneca Valley district's plan says during substantial or high levels of transmission in the county, masks will still be required; meanwhile, during low and moderate levels, masks will be recommended but not required.

“The current transmission level in Butler County is 'high,' meaning that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a mask in Seneca Valley buildings,” according to the Seneca Valley statement.

The Seneca Valley statement said a special meeting, via Zoom, is scheduled Thursday to review the court decision and discuss the safety plan, which was approved in August. Further details about the meeting will be posted to its website Tuesday.

Based on a review of all the county school districts' websites, Slippery Rock Area, Freeport Area and Mars had not posted online updates to their policies as of presstime, but may still make the changes by Monday morning.

Allegheny-Clarion Valley, which is located outside the county but has county students going there, also had not posted an update.