Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

These are the back-to-school COVID guidelines for Philadelphia’s collar counties

Across the country, the majority of schools have dropped mask policies, and locally, suburban Philadelphia districts continue to align with their county's recommendations.

A "Welcome Back to School" sign on Tuesday, September 7, 2021.
A "Welcome Back to School" sign on Tuesday, September 7, 2021.Read moreALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer

Back to School

Summer is coming to an end, and students across the region are heading back to school as COVID-19 continues to spread.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have dropped some quarantining and routine testing guidelines, but continue to recommend mask-wearing in areas where COVID-19 transmission is high. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and its PolicyLab research group have recommended a “less stringent approach” for the coming school year. Here's a look at other COVID school policies across the region:

♦ Philly schools are going mask-optional, but kids and staff must mask for the first 10 days of class.

♦ Masks will be optional but encouraged this year for students and staff in Camden school district.


As students prepare to head back to class, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this month lifted its quarantining and social-distancing guidelines, while the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s PolicyLab recommends that schools no longer require masking or weekly testing for coronavirus.

But for schools in and around Philadelphia, they often rely on local health departments for COVID-19 mitigation guidance to make their districtwide policies. Across the country, the majority of schools have dropped mask policies, and locally, suburban Philadelphia districts continue to align with their county’s recommendations.

Here is what health departments in Philadelphia’s four collar counties recommend:

Montgomery County Health Department

The Montgomery County Health Department’s recommendations are in line with those of the CDC, dropping “test-to-stay” and quarantining guidelines, while loosening masking requirements.

The CDC recommends wearing a mask only in areas where community transmission is deemed high, or if a person is considered at high risk of severe illness.

At the end of the last school year, several Montgomery County districts reinstated mandated masking after the CDC moved the county into its “high” COVID-19 community level.

Chester County Health Department

Chester County has said it, too, will follow recommendations of the CDC and the Pennsylvania Department of Health, noting that it is the responsibility of individual schools to integrate the CDC’s guidance into their everyday health and safety policies.

» READ MORE: CDC drops quarantine, distancing recommendations for COVID

Delaware County Health Department

Also following protocols from the CDC as well as the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Delaware County is requiring schools to report case levels to the state on a weekly basis.

The Delaware County Health Department says it “strongly encourages” schools to notify families when outbreaks occur, offer in-school testing “as needed,” and implement “mask-to-stay” programs, which require unvaccinated or partially vaccinated students who may have been exposed to the virus to wear a mask for 10 days.

Noting that it is offering “best practice guidance,” the health department said each school district is responsible for developing its own COVID protocols.

Bucks County Health Department

The Bucks County Health Department, meanwhile, is adhering to recommendations made in May that “all school entities return to normal operations” for the 2022-23 school year, with COVID “handled similarly to other conditions in existing school nursing policies.”

In a letter sent to school superintendents last school year, Bucks County Health Department Director David Damsker recommended that if students have “resolving symptoms” and have been fever-free for 24 hours, they may return to school, and that asymptomatic students, regardless of exposure, should not be sent home.

Bucks students and staff should have the option to wear masks, and that in most situations, exposure notifications in schools and classrooms will not be necessary, Damsker wrote.