These Arizona school districts required masks in the fall. Here’s what they’re doing now

By Yana Kunichoff & Endia Fontanez | Arizona Republic

On Monday, face coverings will become optional at Kyrene School District.

The reason? Three straight weeks of dropping COVID-19 case rates, and lower student and staff absences, according to an email from the superintendent.

While Kyrene’s announcement comes only weeks after the widespread disruption wreaked by the omicron variant of the coronavirus on schools, they’re far from alone, in Arizona or across the country.

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Madison School District, another Phoenix-area district, told families last week that a decision to remove its mask mandate was just around the corner.

“It is not a matter of IF we will make face coverings optional this school year; it is a matter of WHEN we will do this,” said the announcement on the district website, promising an update in the next two weeks. “Transitioning to an optional requirement will be done in a responsible and prudent manner.”

Kyrene joins Scottsdale Unified and Washington Elementary School District in removing its mask mandates this year. 

Those districts are bucking the trend in metro Phoenix, where a number of districts have chosen to keep their mask requirements, but they are in line with a sign of a national trend. 

School leaders in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Oregon have announced plans to end school mask requirements, even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend universal indoor masking for schools.

Still, with widespread vaccine availability for children older than 5 and the curve bending downward from the omicron surge, COVID-19 disruptions have decreased dramatically in schools across the country in recent weeks.

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