Whether the Perkiomen Valley School District can drop universal masking was the subject of a daylong hearing in federal court Friday, as lawyers questioned witnesses in a case that centers on the rights of children with disabilities to safely attend school.

Judge Wendy Beetlestone, who previously granted a temporary restraining order requiring the district to enforce masking, didn’t issue a ruling Friday on whether to extend it — as requested by the plaintiffs, three sets of parents who say their children’s disabilities put them at heightened risk of COVID-19 complications and require universal masking to ensure their safety in the classroom.

But Beetlestone said she would issue an opinion by Monday, a day before her temporary order is set to expire.

For half of the day, the Philadelphia courtroom was filled with Perkiomen Valley students. Some high school students participated in a walkout last week after Beetlestone issued the emergency order.

Beetlestone commended the students for attending the hearing, and for exercising their right to protest — but also called out one student for failing to properly wear a mask. “Covering your nose,” she ordered.

The case is similar to other legal challenges that have cropped up as some school districts move to drop mask requirements — including one that could affect schools throughout the region. That case, brought by parents of children with disabilities against the Upper St. Clair School District in Allegheny County, is before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. A federal judge had ruled against the parents, determining their potential injuries were too speculative to warrant a restraining order.

They appealed to the Third Circuit, which issued an emergency order requiring masks while it considers the case. If the appeals court were to issue a precedential opinion, it could shape policy on school masking throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

Another federal judge recently ruled against parents suing the Springfield School District in Delaware County for going mask-optional, declining to impose a temporary restraining order against the district.

In Perkiomen Valley, the district ended its mask requirement on Jan. 24 — a shift the school board initially approved in December, after the state Supreme Court struck down the school mask mandate imposed by Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration.

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But while the board had approved a mask-optional policy to begin Jan. 3, it pushed the date back to Jan. 24 amid the omicron surge, said Superintendent Barbara Russell, who testified for several hours Friday about the decision to move away from requiring masks.

“While I view masking as having some effect” on mitigation, “I also have concern for some of our youngest learners” and their literacy development, as well as older students who find that masking “has changed the way they interact with the world,” Russell said.

Russell said the school district of 5,100 students has not experienced any cases of in-school transmission this school year, including as a result of lunchtime, when students are unmasked and less than six feet apart. She said the district had purchased thousands of KF94 masks to provide to students and teachers who wanted them and was open to accommodating students with medical issues, including by placing them near other masked students in classrooms.

She acknowledged that universal masking continues to be recommended by the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Montgomery County Office of Public Health. When Russell said she didn’t know the latest position from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia PolicyLab, Beetlestone asked her to read the research group’s Thursday blog post into the record — which said communities experiencing a decline in cases “may now have an opportunity to weigh the benefits” of mitigation measures against risks.

It also noted that “we continue to support mask requirements in schools located in counties yet to experience a significant reduction in their case incidence and hospitalization burden.”

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Cases in Montgomery County have been declining, but like the rest of the region, transmission remains high as defined by the CDC.

Plaintiffs — who are not named in court filings — did not testify Friday, but Beetlestone agreed to consider affidavits they submitted.

She indicated her decision would not be considering broader arguments about masks, but whether plaintiffs had a valid claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“I know there are very strong opinions on this issue,” she said. But “the only issue that I am dealing with here is very strictly delineated by the ADA claims and Section 504 claims,” another federal law protecting the rights of people with disabilities.