News analysis

DV mask policy sows confusion and risk

By CHARLES PETERSHEIM
Posted 10/5/21

MILFORD, PA — The Delaware Valley Board of Education decision to challenge the state’s strict exception policy for mask-wearing will create new challenges for an already weary school …

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News analysis

DV mask policy sows confusion and risk

Posted

MILFORD, PA — The Delaware Valley Board of Education decision to challenge the state’s strict exception policy for mask-wearing will create new challenges for an already weary school community. The action is forcing a rethink of quarantine policy, faculty legal and safety exposure and has spurred trepidation as to what steps the state may take to force compliance.

The order from Pennsylvania Department of Education outlines quarantine guidelines. Unmasked, unvaccinated students who either contract COVID-19 or have close contact have the greatest risk of quarantine, automatically being quarantined for 10 days without a negative test after day five. If a student is unvaccinated and masked, that child must quarantine if the child who tests positive for COVID-19 is unmasked. A student who is vaccinated does not need to quarantine regardless of exposure and mask status.

There is no online learning offered for quarantined students.

Teachers and administrators face uncertain legal, ethical and safety quandaries. The state has issued statements saying that schools and school employees that fail to enforce the state mandate will lose immunity from lawsuits if someone falls ill and sues, could face criminal charges and could lose teaching certification.  

“I feel that we are poking the bear,” said one administrator in regard to what actions the state may take. “We do millions of things we don’t want to because the state mandates it.”  

The state currently funds 38 percent of public education across the state, all of it with strings attached. Several lawsuits have been filed challenging the mask mandates, although the schools attached to those lawsuits are abiding by the mask rules as the cases make their way through the courts.

Legislation that would allow parents to opt out their students from wearing a mask in school passed through the state Senate Education Committee on Tuesday, September 28. The legislation would also prohibit schools from separating masked and unmasked students or excluding unmasked students from school-sponsored activities.

A Facebook page, “Unmask Our DV Students,” listing 922 members at press time, points at an organized and public effort to use the exception liberally.

Masks are still required on all transportation and sports buses, which are governed by federal guidelines.

School board president Jack Fisher did not respond to emailed questions about possible state actions at press time.

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