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Schools finalizing COVID plans

Students in several area districts will have to wear masks while on school transportation but not while in buildings under new COVID-19 plans.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tweaked its masking guidelines saying fully vaccinated students and teachers no longer need to wear masks indoors.

Some districts are moving to allow all students to be unmasked this fall.

Altoona Area School District won’t require masks in the buildings, though the status of the pandemic and CDC guidelines can change at any time.

“Everything is pretty fluid still,” said Paula Foreman, the AASD community relations director. “The intent, though, is that masks will not be required, but we’ll see how things go.”

Hollidaysburg Area, Tyrone Area, Spring Cove and Williamsburg Community also plan to forgo masks inside.

The Bellwood-Antis School District’s health and safety plan is in the works, Superintendent Thomas McInroy said.

Attempts to reach officials at the Claysburg-Kimmel School District were unsuccessful.

Foreman said Altoona Area is still working on its 2021-22 health and safety plan, so nothing is set in stone, but she anticipates social distancing will remain in effect.

At its board meeting last week, the Hollidaysburg Area School District announced it will not require masks. The district will recommend that unvaccinated teachers and students wear them, however.

Other protocols, like social distancing, will continue to be in place, with students seated 3 feet apart. Hollidaysburg Superintendent Robert Gildea said that measure would be implemented “to the greatest extent possible,” and that sanitation practices will be “much the same” as they were in 2020-21.

Gildea added that it isn’t clear whether the Pennsylvania Department of Education will require contact tracing and quarantining in the event of positive cases.

Tyrone Area Superintendent Leslie Estep said her district’s health and safety plan is subject to change, but for now, the plan is not to require masks indoors.

“We may have to make adjustments moving forward, but we will adhere to some of the same protocols as last year like cleaning and we’ll continue to use physical distancing where appropriate,” Estep said. “Current guidelines allow us to distance a little less.”

Estep said she’s confident her district will return to normalcy smoothly.

“We finished the year in person, and I don’t, unless something drastic happens, foresee us starting differently than full time in person,” Estep said.

Spring Cove Superintendent Betsy Baker said her district will not require masks, though it will offer them to students and teachers. In Spring Cove’s health and safety plan, the district said it will “instruct staff and students on the correct use of masks.”

Bellwood-Antis’ McInroy said the district’s health and safety plan is not yet complete. “Our team has been meeting on a regular basis and we’ll meet again next week,” McInroy said.

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

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