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Masks Required on School Buses

With much focus on state laws regarding masking in the classroom, a federal requirement may have slipped by you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order that became effective February 1, 2021, pertaining to mask-wearing on public transportation. Specifically:

All passengers on public conveyances (e.g., airplanes, ships*, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, ride-shares) traveling into, within or out of the United States (including U.S. territories) as well as conveyance operators (e.g., crew, drivers, conductors and other workers involved in the operation of conveyances), regardless of their vaccination status, are required to wear a mask over their nose and mouth.

The order, still in effect, applies to school buses. From the CDC’s FAQ section:

Which public transportation conveyances does the order apply to, and in which areas? The order applies to all public transportation conveyances traveling into the United States (i.e., arriving from a foreign country) or within the United States (including within states or territories or traveling between states or territories). This includes school buses. The order also applies to all conveyances leaving the United States until they arrive at a foreign destination.

Are masks required on school buses? Yes, passengers and drivers must wear a mask on school buses, including on buses operated by public and private school systems, subject to the exclusions and exemptions in CDC’s order. Operators of school buses should refer to the Department of Education’s Covid-19 handbook for additional guidance.

Guidelines issued by the CDC are by definition not mandatory or enforceable. This should be contrasted with orders and regulations from the CDC, such as these, which are legally binding and do carry the weight of federal law.

Terri Thomas

Director, Legal Services

Terri Thomas serves as Director of Legal Services for OPSRC. Ms. Thomas is an attorney practicing exclusively in the area of Oklahoma school law, with a primary focus on rural and smaller school districts. Prior to OPSRC, she served as legal counsel for the Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools (OROS).

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