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Bellwood-Antis board hears complaints

BELLWOOD — Over 30 parents and students stood before the Bellwood-Antis School Board Tuesday night protesting mask mandates within the district.

The district previously announced it would follow the mandate from Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of Health Allison Beam, who signed an order on Aug. 31 that requires face coverings in all school districts and other educational facilities.

Many in attendance spoke out against the mandates.

“You can see that these kids are unhappy,” resident Scott Dougherty said boisterously before the board. “Some guy in some town far away from here made a stupid rule, and it is damaging our kids. It needs to stop now.”

Parents in attendance contested the district’s compliance of the state mandate, claiming that the mask mandates have created several hardships on students.

Lily Burns, who is a sixth-grade student at Bellwood-Antis, stood before school directors and detailed how wearing a face covering has negatively impacted her learning experience.

Burns said she and other students have struggled to focus in class because of face coverings, adding that the “itchy and warm” masks cause students to experience routine headaches and nausea.

“The only reason we are complying to wearing these masks is because of fear,” she said. “We are scared of you, but you don’t care.”

Others in attendance voiced their displeasure about how the district has handled quarantine restrictions for students.

Resident John Berish, who has two children in the district, said his youngest son recently tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to quarantine.

Berish claimed his son’s teacher provided a stack of worksheets but not lesson plans or instructions, adding that his son’s grades dropped and he struggled when he returned to school.

“Is that really a proper education,” Berish asked the board. “There’s no plan for a student that has to quarantine for two or three weeks. There’s just very little guidance and very little help.”

After listening to the public’s complaints, the board briefly resumed with its regular business before motioning to adjourn.

While the board was attempting to adjourn, those in attendance questioned the board if any action was going to be taken.

The board did not act, much to the disdain of the public.

“We can’t discuss this any further because it’s not listed on the agenda,” Board President Robert Fisher said.

Following the meeting, members of the school board and administration were escorted from the meeting room by four security guards.

Speaking after the meeting, Bellwood-Antis Superintendent Tom McInroy said the staff and administration has been working diligently to “make the best of an unfortunate situation.”

“This is not ideal,” he said. “We are doing our very best to provide our students with a proper education.”

McInroy said the district has provided masks for students who do not have one and that sanitation stations have been set up within the district as well.

The district continues to assess the situation, McInroy said, adding that the focus is on keeping students in the classroom.

“We will always do what is best for our students,” McInroy said.

Mirror Staff Writer Calem Illig is at 814-946-7535.

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