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Montoursville board questions need for masks

Third grade students listen during a music class at Tibbals Elementary School in Murphy, Texas, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Texas Gov. Greg Abbot's statewide mask order does not mandate face covering for children under the age of 10, allowing some school districts to not require masks for children leaving the choice of mask use up to the parents. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Questions arose at a recent Montoursville Area School Board meeting about the need for students to continue wearing masks to protect themselves and others from COVID-19.

School directors agreed it may be time to revisit the district’s policy on requiring masking.

Board member Daniel Albert was the first to raise the issue, noting that many students are tired of the masks.

“I can’t blame a kid for pulling a mask below his nose,” he said. “Kids have been through a lot.”

Board member Ron Snell said the district has no choice but to follow the district’s safety plan.

He questioned, however, why masks are required by students in school but not when playing spring sports.

“We need to be straight across the board,” he said.

Board member Susan Beery said now is not the time to loosen up masking standards given the numbers of infection cases.

Statistics, she said, show that young people are being infected.

“I think it would be risky to put down our guard,” she said.

Albert said he’d like to know the infection numbers for the school district.

High School Principal Dan Taormina said he is prohibited from sharing those figures.

Board President Dave Shimmel said he didn’t like wearing a mask, but the policy was simply one that the district must follow.

Albert said with warmer weather on the way, kids will be increasingly reluctant to wear masks.

“It’s going to turn into something we aren’t going to want to deal with,” he said.

A few residents spoke out against masking, including one person who claimed research reveals masks are ineffective against spread of coronavirus.

Board member Jennifer Marriott said, “These are rules we have to follow right now.”

Other board members also weighed in on the issue.

Dale Ulmer said kids are not spreaders of COVID-19. He said there is no reason why they cannot remove their masks when they are outside.

“Fear has just gripped our nation,” he said.

Dottie Mathers said wearing a mask is part of setting a good example for kids.

“It’s a community health issue,” she said.

The suggestion was made to poll students, school faculty and the public about the need for masking in school and to perhaps to hold a special board meeting on the issue.

In other matters, the board approved an agreement with Intermediate Unit 16 for student information software at $32,870.

The board approved 38 district students for the Intermediate Unit 17 Extended School Year Program from June 21 to July 22 at a cost of $72,950.

In personnel matters, the board approved Sean Walker as head girls basketball coach at a stipend of $3,900. Walker replaces Jonathan Weaver.

The following guest teachers were approved:

• Divia Feinstein

• Caleb Huff-Love

• Griffin Molino

• Madison VanDuren

• Brian Vanvestraut

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