Souderton Area School Board voted to approve a health & safety plan that defied reasonable recommendations from CDC , American Academy of Pediatrics , Department of Education , and the Montgomery County Office of Public Health  on August 26, 2021.  At that time, public health officials recommended layered mitigation strategies to prevent the spread of COVID, like universal masking, social distancing, frequent cleaning and sanitization of communal spaces, contact tracing, testing and quarantine. Souderton Area School District had implemented these practices during the 2020-2021 school year and was largely successful in preventing the spread of COVID in our schools.
At the time of the 2021-2022 health & safety plan approval, youth under the age of 12 were not eligible for a vaccination and represented close to half of Souderton’s student population. Some members of the Board agreed that universal masking should be required to protect these vulnerable youth. Meanwhile, a majority of Board members chose to embrace COVID conspiracy theories and biased anti-mask rhetoric over the recommendations of local health experts and pediatricians. A vote approving a health and safety plan which did not include universal masking passed.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health issued a universal masking order for all schools in the commonwealth on August 31, to go into effect on September 7 . While the majority of districts in Pennsylvania have complied with this order  Souderton has failed to faithfully implement it by allowing parents to opt their student out without any requirement to substantiate exemptions based on medical necessity. As a result, 10% of the student population continues to attend school without a mask  or face covering. The district’s own COVID Dashboard reflects a higher rate of COVID cases compared to last year. Although many factors likely led to this, it is important we remain vigilant with our health and safety plan until a point where cases decline and our entire student population has the ability to get vaccinated.
We can keep our schools open and protect vulnerable youth. We can do this by appropriately evaluating mask exemptions based on medical necessity so that children with disabilities who cannot safely wear a mask are accommodated. Pediatricians overwhelmingly agree that the benefits of wearing masks far outweigh the risks, and legitimate exemptions to mask wearing are very rare. With the right mitigation strategies, we can reduce the spread of the virus and keep all of our kids in school as safe as possible.
 Information obtained from the District via Right to Know Request