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Starting Thursday, all Central York students must begin wearing masks unless they have a medical exemption, school district says

The school district said it has changed its exemption request policy to comply with guidance issued by the state Department of Education earlier this month.

YORK COUNTY, Pa. — Note: The video is from Sept. 6.

Beginning Thursday, all students at Central York High School must begin wearing masks, unless they have received a medical exemption, the school district said in a letter to parents and guardians this week.

Requests for exemptions made under the previous exemption process and form issued on September 3-4 will no longer be valid after today, and will be replaced with the new Section 504/IDEA Exemption Request Form, the school district said.

The new policy is in compliance with rules issued by the state Department of Education on Sept. 3, the district said.

"Specifically, PDE further clarified how school district officials must adhere to federal and state laws related to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and IDEA when allowing (medical) exemptions (to masking policies)," the district's letter said. "In a September 10, 2021 communication to school districts, PDE emphasized that failing to comply with the Order could result in school officials’ loss of sovereign immunity and exposure to lawsuits and personal liability. 

"Given these conditions, on Thursday, September 16, the District will move forward with an update to our exemption process to ensure we are in compliance with federal law and the face covering order."

Under the new policy, the district said, parents/guardians must submit a completed Section 504/IDEA Mask Exemption Request Form to their school's principal.

The student's medical records should be submitted along with the 504/IDEA Form, the district said. 

Once the form and medical records are submitted, a "multidisciplinary team" will review the request to determine whether an exemption or an accommodation is appropriate for each student.

Each 504/IDEA Mask Exemption Request Form and accompanying records will be reviewed and responded to within five school days, the district said. Students should continue wearing a mask during this time. 

If the request for an exemption is not approved, the student must continue wearing a mask, the district said.

Section 504 and IDEA exemptions granted last year (2020-21 school year) will continue to be honored, and a new form does not need to be submitted, according to the district.

On Thursday, all students who have not applied for and received a medical exemption for face coverings will be expected to comply with the mask mandate, the district said. 

If a student is not wearing a mask when they are supposed to, the following procedures will be implemented, according to the district:

For September 16 Students will be reminded to wear a mask. A supply of masks will be available in each building and will be offered to students for their use.

After Thursday, students who do not comply with the masking policy for the first time will meet with the principal, where he/she will be offered a mask, the district said.

"The principal will conference with the student, and a written notice will be given to the student to take home to inform the student’s parent/guardian," the district said. "The principal will attempt to contact the parents."

Subsequent violations will be addressed according to the schools' disciplinary practices, the district said. 

Families in the process of acquiring the necessary medical certification for a mask exemption that need more time beyond Friday must show proof of a scheduled doctor’s appointment to their child’s principal, the district said.

"If the Order is lifted, or if a court intervenes to change the Order, we will review our Health and Safety Plan and provide communication following that action as appropriate," the school district said. "We realize that change may be difficult and we are working to ensure we can limit the confusion for our families and, most important, our students throughout this time. 

"The administration is evaluating options for alternative learning."

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