The Archdiocese of Philadelphia will require all students and staff to wear masks when classes begin after Labor Day.
The order applies to all elementary and secondary schools, as well as schools of special education in Philadelphia and suburban counties, and is based on CDC and local health department recommendations, officials said.
“We hope this requirement will be temporary,” said Kenneth Gavin, archdiocese spokesperson. The Office of Catholic Education will review transmission data every two weeks, Gavin said, adding that “as with last year, plans will remain nimble pending the evolving pandemic landscape. Flexibility and parent partnership will be key. Our goals remain to provide a safe learning environment while delivering a high quality Catholic education.”
All schools in the archdiocese will be open five days a week for in-person instruction, as they were for most of last year.
“We realize that this may be difficult for our school families, however we are committed to our students’ academic, faith, social, and emotional development,” Gavin said. “Please be assured that we are doing our best to meet the varied needs.”
Gavin said the archdiocese would not require staff to get COVID-19 vaccinations, “although it’s encouraged in the strongest possible terms.”
The Philadelphia school board voted Tuesday night to require inoculation for all city School District teachers and staff.
The archdiocese has previously said it would not support its parishioners attempting to seek vaccine exemptions based on religious convictions.
The Catholic school system’s decision comes as a growing number of districts and schools in Pennsylvania and New Jersey order mask mandates, and with a rise in the delta variant of the coronavirus and higher numbers of COVID-19 cases.