RUSSELL, Pa. – It was anything but a quiet day across the Warren County School District.
Not only was it the first day of school, but the district, like many throughout the state, was thrown a curveball when Gov. Tom Wolf announced Tuesday that an indoor mask mandate for all K-12 schools, public and private, in Pennsylvania will take effect Sept. 7.
Superintendent Amy Stewart and the rest of the administration are hard at work taking the next steps for the district.
“We are in the process of unpacking the contents of the Order,” Stewart said. “The Board President will be calling a meeting sometime this week to receive legal advice regarding the Order from our Solicitor. We will be working on updates to our Health & Safety Plan.”
The timing, given everything going on with the start of school, made things even more hectic.
“The timing of the Order was less than ideal,” Stewart said. “On the afternoon of the first day of school, our focus needs to be on getting kids on the right buses, not on a change of messaging from the state.”
The school board has heard throughout the process from a large number of parents, including at its most recent board meeting, about the mask issue. Most of those they are hearing have wanted to keep masking a choice before the mandate came down on Tuesday. There was also a motion passed by the district on Monday that student punishment would be a ‘warning only’ for not wearing a mask on school transportation.
“The masking topic creates a lot of debate,” Stewart said. “There is a great deal of frustration out there right now. We are hearing, primarily, from those who want to keep masking a choice.”
Gov. Wolf said in his statement yesterday: “We’re going to continuously look at this. I can pretty much assure you the Department of Health will be looking at this every day. I’m going to be looking at this every day.”
Added Stewart: “We are fielding calls about when the Order is supposed to end. There is no exit strategy in the Order, so there is no end date.”