Our daughter who lives in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, sent my wife and me a text message and a video on Wednesday night.
In that message, she happily told us that the North Penn school district, where our two granddaughters are in the first and second grades, is considering adding a mask mandate for elementary school students, most of whom are too young to be vaccinated.
The school board, she wrote, will vote on a mask mandate plan for elementary-age students next week. She said she has her fingers crossed they will move forward with the plan.
Even before the recent delta variant surge, she believed strongly that all school districts ought to require masks for the students who are too young to be vaccinated. We agree with her completely.
It seems like such a reasonable idea. Unfortunately, reasonableness can sometimes be in short supply when this topic comes up.
The video she sent showed loud disagreement with this idea at Tuesday night’s school board meeting. It was hard to hear anything clearly because people were yelling over each other. But there was no question many of the parents in attendance wanted no part of mask-wearing for their kids.
According to the story in The Reporter, a newspaper in Lansdale for which I was the editor between 1996 and 2000, the meeting grew so heated that the school board adjourned it abruptly before a planned second public comment period could really get going.
Clearly, the COVID-19 delta variant surge we’re enduring right now was not something any of us expected. We’re all upset about that.
We had a friend at our house last weekend who is a teacher in Easton. She said that for the first time in this pandemic, she is really angry, because she feels, this latest surge is so unnecessary.
I agree. This current COVID-19 state of affairs didn’t have to be this bad. There’s reason to be angry and frustrated that the delta variant has spread while millions nationwide continued to refuse to be vaccinated, mostly for reasons passing my understanding.
But here we are. Cases are rising exponentially and hospitals, especially in the South, are once again being overwhelmed.
We can’t cover our eyes and pretend this isn’t happening. As school opens this week, we need to deal with it for everyone’s health interests.
In July, when things seemed relatively calm, many school boards, including those here in the Valley, developed plans to have face coverings be optional for students in both elementary and secondary schools. That seemed reasonable at the time.
Now things have unfortunately changed for the worse, and I hope that means our districts will consider changing too.
I’m glad to see the Lewisburg Area School District has made masks mandatory for those 11 and younger. A further Lewisburg policy that would have required masks for all students through the eighth grade was narrowly defeated in a 5-4 vote Thursday night.
I was also glad to read in reporter Eric Scicchitano’s story about that meeting that the discussion, though long, was “thoughtful.” I might have preferred that vote had gone the other way, but it’s important that the meeting leaned toward reasoned discussion, not anger and chaos.
So far, none of the other Valley school districts have made the same decision about the age group that is not eligible to be vaccinated.
While I continue to find that difficult to understand, as schools begin to reopen, it’s important that we commit to being careful, respectful and accepting of the fact we’re never all going to agree about masks.
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