POINT PLEASANT — The Mason County Board of Education voted to return to school five days per week with no mask requirements for the 2021-22 school year.
On Tuesday evening, the board met for a special meeting to discuss the re-entry plan for the upcoming school year. During this meeting, discussion was held about whether masks or facial covers would be required for staff and students. It was ultimately decided to recommend facial coverings, but not require them for any staff or student.
During the discussion, Board Member Jared Billings said he thinks people should decide for themselves on if they want to wear a mask. Board Member Meagan Bonecutter agreed and said her suggestion would be to recommend, not require.
Member Dale Shobe said he thought the state said masks would be required on school buses, where distancing was not possible. Supt. Keith Burdette said that was not the case at this time.
Member Ashley Cossin said she was “fine” with recommending masks, but research continues to show that facial coverings protect other people, so the people who want to wear a masks are not protecting themselves. Cossin said she feels “strongly” about wearing masks on buses and thinks they should be required there.
The board stated they hope the county health department stays involved in updating the school system. Cossin asked the board when they would make the call to wear masks or take other measures when seeing cases in the school. Cossin said she would rather take other measures to prevent and slow spread than to shorten the number of days students are in the buildings.
In the final decision for the re-entry plan, the board also voted to return to one bus run each morning and afternoon.
The motion for the re-entry plan passed 4:1 with Board Member Cossin voting against the measure.
Supt. Burdette also stated during the meeting the schools will be implementing protocols to help reduce the spread — including cleaning schools, rooms and buses, utilizing social distancing and considering meal delivery options to reduce contact and crowding.
In a press release from Mason County Schools, it was stated the first day of school for students in grades 1-12 will be Thursday, Aug. 19. For kindergarten students with last names of A-K, the first day will be Aug. 23. For kindergarten students with last names of L-Z, the first day will be Aug. 24. Pre-school students will begin Sept. 7 and groups will be starting on different days.
At the beginning of the meeting, State Senator Amy Grady, who is also a teacher in Mason County Schools, spoke to the board about mask policies for the upcoming year. Grady said of the staff and parents she spoke to, they all wanted to make the decision for their own families on whether or not to war masks.
Watch the meeting online here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOOpzR47Cyg.
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Kayla (Hawthorne) Dunham is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, ext. 1992.