Upper Adams School District (UASD) school board is continuing toward recommendations from July to open schools in the fall and not implement a mask mandate on Aug. 3.
With the promise of fully opening all district schools in full swing, UASD school board discussed the guiding elements for the district’s health and safety plan.
The school district’s proposed health and safety plan lists masks as optional for students and staff, social distancing to be practiced to the highest extent, and the continuation of pandemic level cleaning, according to district Superintendent Wesley Doll.
“I feel confident we’ll be able to open schools this year,” Doll said.
Masks are “strongly encouraged” to be worn in the school environment, “but it is not something mandated in this plan,” he said.
The superintendent and a nine-member school board, none with any epidemiology or medical training are forced to make district-wide health decisions, according to school board president Tom Wilson.
“Neither the governor, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, nor the Pennsylvania Department of Education has provided any useful guidance that I’ve been able to find,” Wilson said.
“What we’d really like to have is a crystal ball looking forward,” Wilson said as he shared Adams County census data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health website.
Data presented suggested county cases are getting worse “but in-person school is necessary, we can’t have another year like last year,” he said.
School district community response has been relatively evenly split between wanting students to wear masks and not, Wilson reported.
School Board vice president Ron Ebbert was in favor of masks especially for elementary students ineligible for the vaccine and with new information about the Delta variant developing.
Ebbert said he could recall the days when a “potent” outbreak like measles could affect an entire class.
“If I’m going to make an error, I’m going to make an error on the side of safety,” he said.
School board member Bruce Hollabaugh on the other hand found, “the strength of this policy is that it gives parents the option to parent their kid,” he said.
School district officials are still collecting information on contact tracing, isolation, and quarantining, and are putting their heads together to anticipate any backup plans that may be needed, according to Doll.
As updates develop, Doll plans to meet with school nurses on regular basis to track data, he said.
“We will continue to monitor it closely,” Doll said.
Members of the community can find local vaccination locations on the district website, according to Doll.
“There’s a misconception that schools can mandate vaccinations and that’s not how it works,” he said.
The board will vote on the health and safety policy Aug. 17.
Wilson also recommended giving Doll authority to delegate “instant changes” related to pandemic decisions, as special meetings require advertisement and associated costs, Wilson said.
The board was also asked to consider meeting every week instead of every other week.