Starting Monday, February 28, the use of masks became optional for all students and staff in suburban high schools operated by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as well as all suburban parish and regional elementary schools.
Officials with the Archdiocese made the announcement earlier this month, citing a significant drop in community cases.
"Now, as positive case numbers are declining and the data regarding cloth masks has been updated, we are looking at steps to adjust our plan slowly in order to return to a more traditional school environment while keeping children safe," the Archdiocese said.
The Archdiocese says any student or staff member who wishes to wear a mask may continue to do so. School officials recommend that unvaccinated individuals and individuals with certain medical conditions continue to wear masks.
The CDC updated its masking guidelines last week, dropping its recommendation of universal masking in schools and no longer requiring people to wear masks on school buses.
Archdiocesan officials said waiting until the end of the month to make masks optional at its schools allowed additional time for cases to decline in the general population.
"All other COVID-19 protocols such as social distancing, increased ventilation, and enhanced cleaning will continue to remain in effect," the Archdiocese said. "We will continue to monitor and report COVID-19 cases and if there are case surges within a school building or a county there may be a need to return to the use of masks. The further reduction of other mitigation efforts will be considering over time pending circumstances."
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia said it strongly encourages all students and staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot.
For students within the School District of Philadelphia, city officials have said they are taking the CDC's recommendation into consideration, but are not making any changes at this time. For now, PSD students still have to wear masks indoors while in the city.
"I don't really mind much because I've gotten used to it, but I do think it's unfair because it would be really nice to see other people's faces," said Georgia Freeman of Washington Square West.
Outside Philadelphia, kids throughout the region now have the choice to remove their masks at school. However, some parents think the masks should stay on.
"I've noticed that not only has it helped with this whole COVID-19 thing, but I've noticed it's a lot less colds in school, a lot less flus," said Daniel Large of Havertown.
Delaware has joined the growing list and announced that the masking requirement for all schools and child care centers would be lifted at 6 p.m. Tuesday.