School mask mandate will be local district decision

Minnesota state officials have recommended CDC school COVID-19 guidance for this fall, which includes all students, teachers, staff and visitors in school buildings wearing masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.

Officials’ backing of the new federal coronavirus guidance is not a mandate, though. School masking policies will be left up to local districts to decide and will not be mandated by the Minnesota Department of Health or the Minnesota Department of Education, according to Education Commissioner Dr. Heather Mueller.

“In the end, because it is a local decision, each of our school boards and school leaders will be making the decision about what that looks like for their school communities,” Mueller said. “Not only will they be making a decision about masks or not masks, they will also be making the decisions about what that means for students or families who do not want to wear a mask if they have a masking policy.”

On Tuesday, Rochester Public Schools became the first district in Minnesota to require face masks be worn by students aged up to 11, according to Bring Me the News.

Paired with the mask guidance, other CDC recommendations include:

  • All people ages 12 years and older should get vaccinated for COVID-19 before returning to in-person school, sports, or other activities to protect themselves and people around them who cannot get vaccinated.
  • Schools should maintain at least three feet of physical distance between students within classrooms whenever possible
  • Students, teachers and staff should stay home if they have signs of any infectious illness, and should contact their health care provider for testing and care.
  • Students, teachers and staff who have been fully vaccinated do not need to stay home even if they have had recent close contact with a confirmed case, so long as they remain asymptomatic and do not test positive. Follow CDC testing guidance for anyone exposed to a confirmed case. 
  • People who are not fully vaccinated and returning to in-person school, sports or extracurricular activities (and their families) should get tested regularly for COVID-19 according to CDC guidance.
  • Schools should continue to strengthen good ventilation, rapid and thorough contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, handwashing, respiratory etiquette, cleaning, and disinfection as important layers of prevention to keep schools safe.