Skip to main content

Rochester schools will require face masks for young learners

Students older than 12 are encouraged but not required to wear masks.

The Rochester Public School Board on Tuesday voted to require masks for younger learners who aren't eligible for the vaccine. 

The school board unanimously approved mask guidelines that interim Superintendent Kent Pekel recommended, which includes requiring face coverings for students between the ages of 2-11. 

"When we can't provide those younger learners with a vaccine and the protection the vaccine affords, it seems to be prudent to take this extra step," Pekel said, according to KTTC

Students age 12 and older, staff and other adults – all of whom are eligible for the vaccine – are encouraged but not required to wear masks.

Pekel in a memo to the school board said he made his recommendation after reviewing what the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics had recommended, saying: "While it is true that young children are much less likely than adults to become seriously ill due to COVID-19, the virus nonetheless poses a significant threat to the health of our youngest learners."

Related: CDC: Face masks recommended for everyone in places with 'substantial or high' COVID transmission

Related: 14 Minnesota counties have 'substantial or high' COVID-19 transmission

"When we have the opportunity as is anticipated to vaccinate younger children, and those rates of vaccination are sufficiently high, we could remove the requirement for our youngest learners,” Pekel said, according to MPR News. “So I wish I could tell the board that this is the last time that you'd be dealing with this, but I think it's very likely that we need to continue to be responsive to this situation over time."

The school board meeting attracted a large crowd of people protesting critical race theory (CRT), despite it being widely misinterpreted in current discourse, and despite the fact that it's not being introduced into Minnesota schools. 

Related [June 16]: Police break up 'disturbance' at anti-critical race theory conference in Moorhead

CRT wasn't on the agenda Tuesday night, and many who spoke during the public comment period were talking about CRT. 

Others who did testify on requiring masks both spoke in favor of and against the superintendent's guidelines. 

Longfellow Elementary School begins its school year on Thursday, according to KTTC, which prompted the superintendent to push the school board to make a decision on masks. 

Minnesota school districts will be able to make their own decisions on mask-wearing ahead of the 2021-22 year. Gov. Tim Walz said he could only implemented a statewide requirement if he declared another peacetime emergency, which he hasn't indicated he will do.

Next Up

Kris Richard Severin

Inmate who escaped Minnesota prison is captured

The inmate escaped Wednesday morning.

Brave New Comedy Workshop in downtown Minneapolis.

Brave New Workshop cancels shows due to COVID-19 cases

The shows were scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Brave New Workshop Comedy Theatre.

Austin Retterath

Body of missing U of M student found in Mississippi River

Austin Retterath was last seen alive in the morning hours of May 8.

"Love" mural seen in St. Paul.

Summer mural events to bring together community, shine light on MN artists

The 2022 Chroma Zone Mural & Art Festival will take place this weekend in St. Paul's Creative Enterprise Zone, with ensuing events happening this summer.


Gallery: Remodeled lakeside home in Prior Lake on market for $2.8M

It offers privacy at the end of a dead-end road fronting onto Lower Prior Lake.

golden valley police department

Carjacking outside ice arena in Golden Valley under investigation

Golden Valley PD confirmed it received a report of a carjacking Monday evening.


Signs that MN Legislature could move to loosen liquor laws

A provision was approved by a legislature committee on Thursday but still awaits a final decision from the House and Senate.

US Bank Stadium

U.S. Bank Stadium looking to hire 400 part-time workers

A hiring fair will be held for the positions.

Screen Shot 2022-05-20 at 8.55.56 AM

Officials looking for man last seen leaving Hudson home

David Mckay, 67, was last seen in Hudson Thursday morning.


'Hyper-contagious' BA.4, BA.5 COVID variants confirmed in MN

Omicron continues to evolve into a more transmissible virus.


classroom mask

Rochester schools may change mask rules to require them for all

The school board will consider the proposal, as well as others, on Aug. 17.

theodore wirth trailhead

Minneapolis parks now requiring masks in all indoor spaces

Anyone going inside recreation centers, ice arenas, and indoor spaces at pools must put on a mask.

coronavirus, masks, covid-19

Backed by Mayo Clinic, Rochester issues indoor face mask mandate

Mankato joined Rochester in requiring face masks in public indoor places, making them the two latest cities to do so.

twin cities marathon

Face mask rules revealed for Twin Cities Marathon weekend

Masks will be required in some outdoor areas, but not while running.

covid-19, vaccine

CDC: Fully vaccinated people can be together indoors without masks

The CDC on Monday released new guidance for fully vaccinated people.


Edina, Mankato among latest cities considering mask requirements

State department of health and the CDC recommend wearing face masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

senate mask

Republicans vote down mask mandate for MN Senate floor

Instead, they want to "strongly encourage" that people wear masks.

rochester school board meeting mask

Ban for those who don't wear masks at Rochester School Board meetings

The board will have people trespassed, which comes with a one year ban from all school property.