Damakant Jayshi

Citing rules clarification from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Wausau School District officials on Friday confirmed that masks will be optional on all First Student school buses starting Monday, March 7.

Masks will still be required for those using Wausau’s Metro Ride buses to get to and from school, as the TSA mandate still applies there.

“What we’ve learned is that the CDC has clarified that the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) mask mandate for public transportation does not apply to schools,” a statement posted on the school district’s website reads. “That means schools can choose, at their own discretion, whether or not to require masks on school buses.” First Student provides the services for WSD students.

The decision comes more than a week before the Wausau School Board of Education was set to decide on the administrators’ recommendation to eliminate mandatory masking on transportation provided by the district.

Until the board’s meeting on Monday, March 14, mandatory masking on school buses was set to continue, the WSD told Wausau Pilot & Review early this week.

The “clarification” that the WSD cited was available before the Feb. 28 meeting of the Education/Operations Committee of the Board of Education when it voted to refer the school administration’s recommendation to eliminate mandatory masking for all district-provided transportation.

Unclear is what prompted the district to implement the rule change before the Board made a decision.

“The TSA made the initial order to mask all public and private school buses and now that they have removed the requirements, we have made the change as well,” said Diana White, Coordinator of Communications & Marketing, explaining the the reasons behind the district’s decision.

She subsequently added: “The CDC clarified that the TSA’s order does not apply to public and private schools. Masks have been worn on our buses because of a TSA mandate. We have since learned from the CDC that the TSAs mandate doesn’t apply to public and private schools.”

CDC’s updated guidance, issued on Feb. 25, does not require masking on school buses.

However, the TSA’s masking requirement, including a rule for “over-the-road-buses,” has not changed and is set to expire later this month unless it is renewed. In August, the TSA extended its face mask requirement for all transportation networks through March 18, 2022