HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP/KDKA) — Pennsylvania schools need a statewide requirement that students in classrooms wear masks as protection against the coronavirus, the Democratic governor wrote in a letter Wednesday to legislative leaders.

Gov. Tom Wolf asked Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, and House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, to call lawmakers back to Harrisburg immediately to work on a bill to order schools and child care facilities to require masks in classrooms.

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Messages seeking comment were left for Cutler and Corman. A spokesman for House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, said the House GOP caucus was against voting on a statewide mask mandate.

Concerned parents, pediatricians, teachers and others have been urging state officials for such a mandate, Wolf said. Under a constitutional amendment that GOP lawmakers pushed onto the ballot earlier this year, and which passed narrowly, the governor’s authority to respond to pandemics was severely curtailed.

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Masks in school have become a hot debate as students return to the classroom, even resulting in legal action in some districts like North Allegheny.

Wolf told Cutler and Corman he has “become increasingly concerned about misinformation being spread to try to discredit a school district’s clear ability to implement masking” as well as “local control being usurped by the threat — implicit or explicit — of political consequences for making sound public health and education decisions.”

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said the Allegheny County Health Department does have the authority to implement mask mandates in school. But so far, outside of offering recommendations, the department has let school leaders decide what is best.

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