Despite outcry during Monday’s Huntingdon Area School Board meeting, masks are still required for students in the district.
In a 7-1 vote, the board voted to retroactively approve the district’s health and safety plan that calls for universal masking. Board member Brittany Rutter cast the lone “no” vote. Board president Dr. Ronald Long was not in attendance.
Among the crowd against mandatory masking was Kenny Sowers who said that the district has no right to decide what people do.
“That individual’s body solely belongs to that individual,” he said. “The individual is the one who is able to determine what is on or within them.”
Sowers requested extra time for his speech that he had prepared. Though cut off at 3minutes, he was allowed to continue once everyone had a chance to speak.
Another parent who spoke against the masks was Jessica Grove, who has two children who attend Southside Elementary.
“These masks are about power, not protection,” she said.
As a surgical technician, she said the masks worn by students were not effective like the ones used in hospitals.
“Kids are getting sick anyways,” she said. “It should be a choice.”
Sherry Kincel said wearing masks should be up to the parents.
“If it’s my kid, it is my choice,” she said. “It is time to let parents decide.”
Melissa Long, president of the booster club, mentioned an incident that occurred in the food booth during the Sept. 17 football game.
“None of the workers in our booth wore a mask either because of the heat or because they did not want to,” she said. “We were shut down because of that.”
She said they should not be forced to listen to the mask mandate because they are not a club run through the district.
“I’m afraid this will keep us from having a food booth, spaghetti dinners or snacks we give to the athletes.”
Masking is mandated by the state and districts are required to follow the mandate, but Sowers argued the school board does not work for the state Department of Health, but for the taxpayers and the children.
“It is your responsibility to give our children a free and public learning experience,” he said. “Stop placing your thoughts over our rights.”
Bethany Burns was the only parent to speak in favor of the masks.
“Huntingdon is at such a high risk right now,” she said. “Our children aren’t going to be seen and heard if they are learning from home.”
She said reports are showing that Huntingdon County has an average of 24 COVID-19 cases per day.
“We face the same problem as last year if we don’t keep masks,” she said.
Emily can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.