Masks were for a brief moment optional at Palmyra Area School District, according to a letter sent out to parents on Wednesday afternoon.

But the change in policy didn’t last long.

The momentary shift in coronavirus mitigation strategies was due to a ruling issued by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court on Wednesday.

The Commonwealth Court, one of Pennsylvania’s two intermediate appellate courts, ruled that the statewide school masking order – issued in August by acting Secretary of Health Allison Beam – was invalid because Beam did not have the legal standing and authority to issue the edict.

At the time of the August masking order, there was no disaster emergency proclamation in effect, according to Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon of the Commonwealth Court. Additionally, voters approved an amendment to the state constitution last May that provided the state Legislature with the authority to override emergency declarations from the governor.

The statewide school masking order did not comply with this new amendment, Cannon ruled.

According to PASD superintendent Bernie Kepler, the change was meant to be effective immediately.

However, he did note – “Please be aware that this decision may be appealed by the Secretary of Health and the Governor.”

Sure enough, in a followup letter sent a few hours after the first, Kepler announced that the district would be continuing to adhere to the mask order due to a pending appeal of the decision by Beam.

“Please know that the School District shares in your frustration with the continued moving target,” said Kepler. “However, we have and will continue to adhere to the current requirements imposed upon us by the Commonwealth on this matter.”

Kepler expressed a sincere hope that the topic of masking not further divide the community locally.

“Our schools have been operating effectively over the last month and a half and we
hope to continue to engage our students in the same manner in the days and weeks ahead,” said Kepler. “We ask for continued patience as this issue is determined through the courts.”

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An earlier version of this article was published prior to LebTown seeing the second letter, which reinstated the mask policy at PASD due to a pending appeal of the Commonwealth Court decision. We sincerely regret the error.

Aubree Fahringer is a producer and reporter for LebTown.