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Williamsburg: District to ask Pa. for COVID controls

Board approves resolution seeking authority over safety measures

WILLIAMSBURG — Arguments erupted between Williamsburg Community School Board members and those in the audience over whether to defy a state mask mandate.

Instead the board voted unanimously Tuesday for a resolution asking state officials to give the district control over COVID-19 related safety measures.

The resolution was based on one passed by the Spring Cove School Board Sept. 20.

Before reading the resolution in full, board President Barry M. England stated that the Wolf administration’s masking mandate was tearing school districts apart and pitted people against the board.

“They put down these mandates, and if we don’t follow them, it puts all the onus on us,” England said. “It puts an onus on the schools, the district itself and it puts an onus on us. And we’re just regular people. We don’t get paid to do this.”

Before voting to approve the resolution, the floor was opened to public comment as the resolution was not included in the board’s agenda ahead of the meeting. Several people in the audience questioned why more wasn’t being done, with Jill Norris calling a resolution “just a piece of paper.”

They also expressed dismay that Williamsburg won’t accept parental exemptions to the mask mandate, citing that other districts in the area are doing so.

“Other school districts had courage,” Joe Detwiler, a police officer from Williamsburg, said.

“What is the future then, of the integrity of the school district?” said Williamsburg Superintendent Lisa Murgas. “I get what you’re saying. … But where does the integrity of our school district stand up when we’re given mandates and things that we’re to follow — that we took an oath to follow — but we’re basically going to say forget it we’re not doing that? Where does the integrity and beliefs of this school system fall into place?”

Murgas then asked what the goal of those opposed to the mandate was. Detwiler said it was to do what’s right.

“Let me ask you, with your position as a police officer, with your lieutenant and your sergeant, you’re given orders, what happens if you don’t follow those?” Murgas asked.

“If I saw something being done that I knew was wrong — if I was given an order that I knew was wrong — I wouldn’t do it,” Detwiler replied.

“What would happen?” Murgas said. “You’d probably be fired.”

“Exactly, but I wouldn’t have done it,” Detwiler said. “That’s what I’m trying to get through to everybody here.”

England interjected that Detwiler and the other opponents of the masking mandate would be putting the school district in jeopardy.

Board member Janet Lee said following the masking mandate wasn’t about people being afraid of getting sued.

“That’s not what it’s about,” Lee said. “It is about our people, our kids who have to be protected — who have circumstances and health issues — if we let everybody come to school without masks and one of those kids gets sick, those are the parents that are going to sue. You’re putting their health at risk.”

After Murgas was able to get the meeting under control, Adam Hileman was the last to address the board.

“I think it’s child abuse,” Hileman said of the mandate. “I really do. I think when we look back at this, we’re going to be really embarrassed about what we didn’t do and could have done.”

In other news, the board voted to appoint Justin Becker as the Woodbury Township board director to fill the spot left by Timothy Strohmeyer. Strohmeyer had submitted a letter of resignation to the board that was approved, effective immediately.

Mirror Staff Writer Rachel Foor is at 814-946-7458.

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