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UPSD Facemask Policy Change Would Not Eliminate Them
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer
2022-02-23

            Even if the Upper Perkiomen School Board votes tonight to change its current policy on mandatory facemasks, they won't be going away. Under newly designated standards issued by the Montgomery County Office of Public Health, students and staff deemed as close contacts to positive cases would be required to wear the masks for 10 days in order to stay in school.

            During its public workshop meeting, the members could consider a motion to amend its masking policy related to COVID-19. Two weeks ago, the board discussed the possibility of making them optional but strongly recommended.

            A reexamination of the district's health and safety plan could lead to a more judicious use of the masks, such as for a known risk, according to board President Judith Maginnis. She wrote in an email message received Tuesday that school officials should reexamine their plan and revise the metrics due to additional mitigation strategies, such as the increased availability of vaccinations for students under age 12 and the widespread availability of home rapid antigen tests.

            "When the current metrics were chosen to determine the district's masking requirements, our mitigation strategies were limited," wrote Maginnis, a certified school nurse, health services coordinator and the pandemic coordinator at a charter school in Allentown. "Masking was our biggest tool to fight in-school transmission then."

            Two weeks ago, Superintendent Allyn Roche identified a continuing decline of cases in the district's five schools. Maginnis, describing as unattainable the standards of its current health and safety plan necessary to make mask wearing voluntary, asked the superintendent to present a series of metrics that would allow the masks to be removed while keeping the students and staff safe from the novel coronavirus.  

            "We can't do it forever," said Maginnis, a registered nurse, after the previous meeting. 

            In an environment where mask wearing is voluntary, students deemed as a close contact will be required to wear the masks for two weeks while they are in class and during extra-curricular activities, according to information presented on Feb. 9 by Assistant Superintendent Andrea Farina. Masks will continue to be required on district transportation.

            She explained that students would be required to pass a home antigen test in order to take off the mask. Under the new requirements, tracing would only occur in the household, cafeteria and during extra-curricular activities.  Anyone who tests positive for COVID must quarantine for five days and return wearing a mask for five additional days. 

            Those who are not vaccinated will continue to be identified as close contacts, according to the assistant superintendent. She said administrators would continue to be responsible for outbreak management.

           The district may require certain classrooms or areas to mask for a period of time, according to Roche.


 

 

 

 

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