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B-A sends Wolf mask letter

BELLWOOD — Bellwood-Antis School District Superintendent Thomas McInroy — on behalf of the school district — this week sent a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf and Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam — upset with the masking mandate sent out to schools on Aug. 31.

The school board has held several meetings attended by crowds in excess of 50 parents complaining about the requirement for students to wear masks.

“We sent the letters so they knew the ramifications of their decision. We began the school year with a choice concerning mask wearing. We worked during the summer to develop a safety plan that was submitted to the Department of Education for approval. The plan was approved. Not long after school began, the governor, through the Department of Health, mandated mask wearing. That mandate appears to have more focus on the penalties than on the actual implementation of the mandate,” McInroy said.

In the email to Wolf and Beam, McInroy said there are a series of exceptions in the mandate that defy common sense — such as the wearing of masks inside the school building, however, it is permissible to sit next to someone without a mask at a football game.

“These inconsistencies have created an inordinate amount of frustration with district leaders and the community. These frustrations have boiled over in school board meetings as some community members have decided to take out their frustration on school board members and administrators. It has been reported that superintendents and school board members have received threats at an unprecedented rate,” McInroy wrote. “The lack of forethought and inconsistencies within the mandate itself, along with public outrage, has created an extremely dangerous situation for all school officials. I strongly urge you to thoroughly examine all aspects of this mandate, including the penalties for noncompliance, and restore local control over this situation.”

McInroy said the mask mandate decision has taken the focus from education.

“We need the students to be in school to get the best education that we can provide. There have been three consecutive school years that have been disrupted by COVID. Educators need the time with students in school to focus on remediation and education,” McInroy said.

Currently, Bellwood-Antis has approximately 99% student participation with mask wearing.

“The administration has asked for individual meetings with parents who are opposed to having their child wear a mask. We wanted to discuss education options for their child(ren). This gave the parents a chance to ask questions of me and their principal and us a chance to share the information that we have. I am appreciative for the opportunity to have a conversation about the concerns parents have,” he said.

The Bellwood-Antis School board will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

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