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UASD approves masks as optional

Upper Adams School District (UASD) moves forward with masks as optional Tuesday.

As UASD prepares to fully open for in-person learning, the board approved the health and safety plan instituting masks as “strongly recommended but not required,” in a 5-4- vote Tuesday.

The approval to not implement a mask mandate came after much deliberation between the board as well as listening to parent and community concerns.

Approving the plan and voting in favor of allowing parents to make their own decisions for their students were board members Susan Crouse, Bruce Hollabaugh, Cindy Janczyk, Jim Lady, and Ed Ponce.  

Voting against the plan and in favor of mandatory masks in school district facilities were board members James Rutkowski, Christopher Lee, board vice president Ron Ebbert, and board president Tom Wilson.

Several board members noted the difficult decision of the vote.

With the rise in county cases and change in Delta variants, Rutkowski acknowledged his own “flip-flopping” back and forth on the issue, suggesting “When the county is a substantial transmission, we might want to consider requiring masks for the safety of our community and the safety of our students,” he said.

Crouse was open to the idea of reviewing the health and safety plan as new information evolved throughout the school year.

“We and the public need to recognize that we are trying every day and every week to do what’s right for our kids,” she said.

Ebbert was highly in favor of mandating masks and credited masks along with social distancing and the school district’s recent air circulation construction project as making schools as safe as possible.

“Our students were safer in school than they were in the general public,” he said.

General correspondence received by the school board from members of the community have found that, “A majority of parents would like to make the choice themselves,” according to Janczyk.

“There are parents that have spoken with the decision that they would like that right, and I think that’s worth serious consideration tonight,” she said.

Hollabaugh said it is more important for teachers to focus on instruction than having to constantly remind students proper mask wearing procedures “It doesn’t seem very appropriate to expect our teachers or our administrators to not only educate our children but also to bear the responsibility of enforcing correct mask wearing,” he said.

School district decisions should be consistent throughout the county, according to Lady. “It’s my understanding all other school districts in Adams County have established a similar plan,” he said, acknowledging UASD was only a part of the districts that make up the county.

“This should be a group effort of Adams County,” Lady said.

Lee respectfully disagreed with Lady, noting that while every parent has the responsibility to their own children, members of the school district had a responsibility for all students.

“We don’t always do what the other districts do. I think we do what we do because it’s right, not because it’s what other people do,” he said.

District superintendent Wesley Doll reminded parents the imperativeness of keeping students at home if they feel unwell, emphasizing it can be crucial in slowing the spread of illness.

“We have found that has significantly helped us stay open,” he said.

In other business it was noted,

·         Three councilors were approved to be brought on for additional student mental health services using Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSER) funding.

·         A grant was accepted from the Biglerville High School Class of 1952 for $225 in support of the Biglerville Elementary School Music Program.

The first day of in-person school, kindergarten through 12th grade is Aug. 25.

The next curriculum and extracurricular committee meeting will be held Sept. 7 and regular school board meeting Sept. 21.

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A.L. Grabenstein is a graduate of Philadelphia's La Salle University with a B.A in Communication and has been a journalist since 2016. She has reported for the Gettysburg Times and the Times Herald in Norristown, PA. Grabenstein moved to Gettysburg from Montgomery County in 2019. She was born in San Antonio, TX., and previously lived in Virginia, and North Carolina. Grabenstein is actively involved in the borough of Gettysburg and loves giving voices to the local community.

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