TASD says masks should be optional on school bus
The Tamaqua Area School District plans for masks to be optional on the school bus this year.
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, masks are required to be worn by passengers and drivers on school buses - regardless of school mask policy.
“This is part of a federal order from the CDC, it is considered a mandate, it’s something we’re required to do,” Superintendent Ray Kinder reiterated to the board at Tuesday’s workshop committee meeting.
“That was the one thing we discussed last month - requirements and mandates and we would adhere to those types of things.”
Board President Larry Wittig said younger students would receive a mixed message.
“On the bus, you have to suffocate, but once you’re in school, everything is fine. It’s so inconsistent and it makes no sense,” Wittig said.
“Kids are smart - they’re going to figure out why can I get COVID on the bus, but I can’t get it in my classroom? They’re paranoid now because adults have shoved all this crap in their face. And now we’re doing this. I think we should leave it up to the parents and say if you want to mask up on the bus, that’s fine, but we’re not going to make you do it.”
No present board member was against the idea. Some were indifferent, others supported it.
“I agree it’s a mixed signal and all of that, but in the grand scheme, it’s not really affecting anything. … I’m good either way, but to me it’s really a nonissue if they have to wear a mask,” said Daniel Schoener, treasurer.
“It’s not like they’re breathing hard or any of that stuff. They get on the bus and they sit there. Again, I agree with the fact that it doesn’t do any good, but if there is a benefit, what’s the big deal?”
Kinder said students have assigned seats on the bus. Buses are scheduled to be full and some “will definitely be packed,” Kinder noted. On elementary runs, there could be up to three students per seat.
“If they have a concern, (parents can) tell their kids to wear them,” Wittig said. “Nobody is preventing them; I just think we should not mandate it.”
The increase in COVID-19 cases over the past calendar month has received attention from local medical experts.
The statewide positive rate for the week ending June 24 was 1.2%. That number is 5.4% today. Over 2,000 additional COVID-19 cases were reported across the commonwealth by the department of health Tuesday.
“Our general advice is to consider, because of the increase in cases right now, is to consider starting out having the children in K-12 wearing a mask for at least the first 4-6 weeks, until we can see how this is going to go,” said Dr. Jeffrey Jahre, St. Luke’s Senior Vice President of Medical and Academic Affairs and Section Chief Emeritus of Infectious Diseases.
“After that, if the case rates drop down tremendously, and we are all in a low area, opposed to a moderate to substantial area - which all of our areas are right now, then we can probably dispense with the masks. But at this point in time, it’s usually a lot easier to start out with something, and then take it away - than to add it on later on.”
Kinder said the board has not been in communication with Kistler Transportation Inc. about the potential change in Tamaqua’s transportation mask policy, which will be put in front of the board for approval at next Tuesday’s meeting.