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HASD will lift mask mandate

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Hollidaysburg Area students and teachers will not be required to wear masks in the upcoming school year under a draft plan approved by the school board Wednesday.

The draft of a health and safety plan for COVID-19 does recommend masks for those who are not fully vaccinated. Social distancing will continue to be practiced as students will remain 3 feet apart in classrooms.

The board voted 7-0 with board members Rick Gallagher and Manny Nichols absent.

Superintendent Robert Gildea’s announcement of the plan comes less than a week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention loosened its masking recommendations. The CDC said that it is safe for fully vaccinated teachers and students to be maskless indoors.

“I see no reason to require masking,” Gildea said. “Our hope is we start normally and end normally,” he said referring to the upcoming school year.

Gildea added that the district will not offer a virtual option for 2021-22, calling such an option “too much to juggle.”

Two community members spoke during public comment. Both expressed their displeasure with mask policies.

Michael Eardley said he and his family made the decision that his children will not wear masks in school.

“It was a medical decision,” Eardley said. “Regardless of your position on the effectiveness of masks, I don’t think they work. The fact is, I don’t think the kids should be forced to wear them.”

Jennifer Costanza said she believes it is up to parents whether their children should wear masks in school.

“You are not the parents,” Costanza told board members. “There needs to be a zero tolerance policy for pushback against children not wearing masks.”

The district’s health and safety plan will have its details finalized at a July 27 Health and Safety Committee meeting, Gildea said. The district is required to submit the plan by the end of the month in order to be eligible for federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding.

Also Wednesday, the board unanimously approved all other items on the agenda, including the American Dairy Association North East’s donation of a milk cooler.

Mirror Staff Writer Andrew Mollenauer is at 814-946-7428.

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