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Coronavirus in Pennsylvania

Blue Mountain Orders Students to Wear Masks on Buses – Joining Other Schuylkill Districts

blue mountain school board meeting mask mandate school buses

blue mountain school board meeting mask mandate school buses

Blue Mountain school board members voted Wednesday night to mandate face masks be worn by students while they’re riding buses and other transportation contracted by the district this year.

The board voted 5-4 to require kids wear masks on any district transportation. Blue Mountain students won’t have to wear masks inside school buildings, however.

This probably won’t be the last bit of COVID-inspired hysteria by power holders here. It certainly isn’t the first.

Blue Mountain Requiring Students to Wear Face Mask on Buses, Other Transportation

Requiring kids to wear masks on school buses but not in schools is like the rule that required restaurant customers to wear masks on their way to their seats but not in their seats.

But this rule makes even less sense. Presumably, the kids on the bus are going to see each other and be in close contact throughout the day at school.

So, logic says if you’re going to make them wear a mask on the bus, they should wear one in the school.

What Blue Mountain school board members voted for, and what other school board members in other districts across Schuylkill County voted for, was peace of mind.

But it certainly wasn’t scientific.

The Vote

patel grube blue mountain school board mask debate

District Solicitor Sud Patel explained that the Pennsylvania Dept. of Education recommends Blue Mountain follow the CDC order on face mask mandates on school transportation. Director Timothy Grube said Wednesday, “It makes no sense.”

How Blue Mountain school board members eventually reached this conclusion on Wednesday certainly wasn’t ordinary.

For starters, 3 members of the board were absent. One eventually showed up in person and 2 others joined by phone later in the meeting.

They had 2 choices:

  • Make masks mandatory on buses
  • Make masks optional on buses

District solicitor Sud Patel told board members that there was a CDC “order” in place that required masks be worn on public transportation if a community is at a High rate of community transmission.

“There is an order from the CDC,” Patel said in defense of instituting a mask mandate on school transportation. “Second, the Pennsylvania Dept. of Education recommends following the CDC guidelines.”

He also said that other districts in the county are doing so, including Pottsville Area, Tamaqua Area, Schuylkill Haven Area, Williams Valley, North Schuylkill, Pine Grove Area, and Minersville Area, have already implemented a similar mask mandate.

Further, he explained that parents could ultimately sue the school and the transportation provider if a “mass outbreak of COVID” traced back to a bus, “It could place the school district in a tough position liability-wise.”

Many of the 50 or so parents and taxpayers who attended Wednesday night’s meeting vocally objected to that thinking, saying the CDC issued a recommendation, not an order, and that school buses weren’t public transportation. They’re a privately contracted company that offers transportation.

Regardless, the directors took several votes before ultimately arriving at their conclusion.

A first vote on mandating masks failed on a 4-4 vote. The vote on making masks on buses and school transportation optional also failed by the same vote.

The board was able to get member Scott Reichert on the phone to settle the tie.

He along with directors Herman Fligge, Marie Riegel, Krista Strause, and Michelle Vesay voted in favor of the mask mandate. John Carestia, Timothy Grube, David Lafko, and Anne Usuka voted against it.

“It’s illogical,” Grube said as the board debated the mandate. “It makes no sense. I’m completely opposed to it.”

Reichert ended up being the deciding vote on the issue Wednesday night, though he didn’t ask to be, certainly. That put him in a difficult position.

He referenced losing a family member to COVID. While he said that he’s not sure wearing a mask would’ve helped, “For me to constantly know that I put a young child on a bus with a breathing issue because I chose to be mask-free, I don’t know if I could live with myself.”

Public Outcry Over Mask Mandate

The vote was taken after Blue Mountain school board members heard from a prepared group of parents and taxpayers who questioned the logic of mandating masks on the bus.

They had plenty more to say and occupied the Public Comment portion of the meeting letting directors know they didn’t want them to mandate masks on buses. Some said their kids would not wear masks no matter how they voted Wednesday.

“Our kids are not wearing masks on the bus,” Roseanne Zelusky, of Orwigsburg, insisted. “They’re our children. We pay taxes. It’s up to us what we want to do with our children. We need to get back to education. That’s what’s important here, not any of this bullsh**. Let our kids be kids.”

Mark Stefura, also of Orwigsburg, noted that children are not “superspreaders.” He believes giving in to this latest CDC “order” will only lead to more rules in the future.

“If we give in an inch, they’re going to take a mile,” he said. “You’re concerned with spinelessly cowering on buses. What if they contact trace it to the school? You’re going by these recommendations by the CDC. They’re not requirements. It’s a bunch of garbage. You need to get a backbone and start fighting this now.”

Dawn Cooper, of Summit Station, said the obvious thing that no one in power can seem to see. “If masks worked,” she said. “We wouldn’t be here today.”

But this new rule trend taken by local school districts is as bass ackwards as any mask order in the past. There’s zero data, outside of a politician’s words, to suggest they worked last year. So, why are we back here again?

What’s next? You can’t ride the bus with a mask unless you order a school lunch?



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