Thursday, June 24, 2021

North Schuylkill Addresses Mask and Vaccination Concerns for 2021-2022 School Year


During Wednesday evening's monthly regular meeting of the North Schuylkill School Board, a group of concerned parents had questions on masking and vaccination requirements for the new school year beginning in August.

Like most school districts across the United States, North Schuylkill followed the CDC guidelines and Pennsylvania Department of Health's mandates for masking in their district.  That meant all students and staff were required to wear masks throughout the school day except during special break times.

Melinda Towers, of Ashland, who is a mother of elementary aged children in the district, was joined by a group of parents that attended the meeting to find out if the masks would be mandated when the next school year begins.  The group brought signs that displayed messages like "Follow the Science Not Political Science" and "Unmask Our Kids".

"We are here to ensure that the health and safety plan for the next school year that is being created for the elementary and secondary schools will not require masks or vaccines." Towers stated during the meeting's public speaking portion.

Towers spoke on her concerns of the harm that school-aged children were experiencing on wearing a mask all day in school and provided examples to the school board.

Towers concluded that if the school district required a mask or vaccine in order to attend school, her children would be joining a cyber charter school in the fall.

Lori Jalonski, of Ashland, and parent of elementary aged students spoke on her concerns and long term effects of children receiving the vaccination.

North Schuylkill Superintendent Dr. Robert Ackell immediately addressed the concerns of the parents.

"As far as the vaccine, there is nothing in our [North Schuylkill's] Health and Safety Plan for students or faculty to mandate the vaccine." Dr. Ackell stated.

Ackell did state that there is a portion of the plan that requires the district to address vaccinations, meaning the district would only spread the word on where to receive vaccines, like posting vaccine locations via social media.

"There is no mandate other sharing information", Dr. Ackell said.

Finally, Superintendent Dr. Ackell stated that masks would not be mandated unless they are mandated by the CDC or Pennsylvania Department of Health.

"If there is a mandate by the Department of Health or CDC, we will follow it and all recommendations would be taken into consideration.  So as of now, there is no mandates on masks". Dr. Ackell stated.

Dr. Ackell did note that masks are still "recommended" by the CDC and Department of Health.

One parent asked "Would students that are not vaccinated be required to wear a mask?", to which Dr. Ackell replied, "As of now, no".

Towers replied to Dr. Ackell stating, "As long as they have a choice".

Board President Charles Hepler added that all recommendations would still be considered by the board and Dr. Ackell and up for discussion.  

Hepler said he was thrilled that concerned parents attended the meeting and all feedback would be considered.

North Schuylkill's board is set to meet again on Wednesday, August 11th, 2021 for their Committee Meetings with their regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, August 18th, 2021.

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