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Masks optional for AASD students

Face covers required for unvaccinated staff

Masks will be optional for Altoona Area students and vaccinated staff, the school board decided Monday as part of its health and safety plan.

Unvaccinated staff will be required to wear masks. Students will only be required to wear masks when on public transportation, such as school buses.

Additional protocols will include social distancing, hand washing and continuation of cleaning and ventilation practices used in 2020-21.

According to Assistant Superintendent Brad Hatch, the plan is subject to change based on fluctuations in federal and state mandates.

Before the meeting Monday, Superintendent Charles Prijatelj said that vaccinations are the key to keeping the community safe as the school year approaches. If enough people get vaccinated, Prijatelj said, “our issues will be truly minimized.”

“One way to ensure the health and safety for all is to be vaccinated,” Prijatelj said, adding that the district is planning to have a vaccination event sponsored by Thompson Pharmacy sometime this month.

No one addressed the topic of masking during public comment. Just one person spoke, voicing his displeasure with the recently implemented clear backpack policy. Chris Garhart, who has children who attend school in the district, said the policy is unconstitutional.

“To me, this policy is a violation of our students’ Fourth Amendment rights,” Garhart said. “The key word in the Fourth Amendment is unreasonable. At this point in time, I don’t see anything that makes this reasonable.”

After the meeting, Prijatelj said the policy is simply a matter of keeping students safe.

“What we’re doing is for the health and safety of children,” Prijatelj said. “Clear backpacks have been used in several different places, same as metal detectors. We respect students’ privacy, and we’re going to do everything we can to ensure their privacy, but at the same time, we have to guarantee that they’re safe.”

In other matters Monday, the board voted to refinance the district’s 2013 bond issue, which has 10 years left on its maturity, according to Prijatelj. That debt amount totals approximately $35 million and is from the junior high school building project. Prijatelj said the refinancing of that bond issue will “probably occur next week.”

Board members Mike Baker, Kelly Irwin Adams, Dave Francis and Ed Kreuz were absent.

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

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