Dear BEA Community:
At last Wednesday night's Board meeting we heard from many people during public comments. The three main issues were masking should be optional, we need to stop quarantining students who are close contacts but not sick, and we need to keep the schools open and not adversely effect sports and extracurricular activities.
The Board and I said we would continue the mask mandate but we did not want to punish students who did not wear a mask. We were optimistic that most students would wear masks and we could work with parents and students who still did not.
Unfortunately, yesterday, the MS/HS alone had 274 students not wearing a mask. Many of the elementary schools are experiencing high numbers as well. At the same time, we are having to continue to quarantine students, some for the third time, because they were close contacts and one or both the COVID positive student and the students being quarantined were not wearing a mask.
So, the district must reverse course at this point. Beginning tomorrow, Wednesday, September 29, students who do not have a note provided by a medical professional exempting them from wearing a mask, must wear a mask or face shield (mesh masks do not meet the guidelines) or face progressive disciplinary action according to district policy.
By doing this, we keep schools open, significantly reduce the number of students quarantined, and keep sports and extracurricular activities going.
The Board and I no longer wish to debate whether masks work or the legality of the mandate. The legislature has had ample opportunity to take action and they have not. The courts have not decided that the mandate is illegal.
I am aware of the letter Mifflin County administration sent to parents limiting their role in contact tracing. I have been in contact with multiple lawyers and the IU 10 Director, who was meeting via Zoom today with officials from PDE, to see the legality of their actions and if we have the authority to do what Mifflin County is proposing.
If students are masked or wearing a face shield and they are three feet or more away from someone in school, they will not need to be quarantined. There are mask breaks every period at the MS/HS and every 40 minutes at the elementary schools.
The Board, administration, and I are hopeful that we can get back to focusing on what is most important, student learning.
Scott V Graham