Masks Optional For Council Rock Schools After Board Decision

The Chancellor Center in Newtown. Photo via Council Rock School District.

The Council Rock School District is going maskless to close out the school year starting Friday.

The Council Rock School Board voted 7 to 1 at Thursday night’s meeting to end mask requirements. Going forward, masks are now optional for all Council Rock buses, classrooms, and school activities.

Central Bucks Schools made a similar decision Wednesday. It came after hearing from parents and Bucks Health Director Dr. David Damsker.

Opponents at Council Rock to the measure cited guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. It currently mandates masks for people who are not fully vaccinated.

Board member Mariann McKee said she changed her mind on the issue. McKee previously supported mask requirements, but said the situation had changed.

“It’s a very different conversation to me than the last time we had it because of the advice of our counsel,” said McKee, citing Cox. “With Dr. Damsker’s recommendation, I feel much more comfortable agreeing with this motion.”

McKee also referenced the weather forecast for next week with temperatures in the 90s. She hoped taking off masks would help make students more comfortable, especially in schools without air conditioning.

On the other side, board member Denise Brooks voted against the measure.

“I’ve gotten countless emails, phone calls, and met with parents who are not as visible,” said Brooks, “who made decisions to attend school based on our health and safety plan that included masks begging me what can I do to keep the masks on for the rest of this year.”

Brooks also said, as she understood the matter, there was still a state order in place mandating masks until June 28th for people who were not fully vaccinated.

“If I’m understanding it right, what Dr. Damsker has provided is a defensible way to basically not follow the state order.”

However, CRSD Solicitor Robert Cox, Esq. noted the legality is unsettled. Under Damsker, the Bucks Department of Health has said masks may be optional for all situations.

Cox said the local health department “arguably has primary authority” on the matter.

“That’s arguable. It has not been subject to a court case that I’m aware of,” said Cox. “So as it has occurred from time to time over the past 15 months, there’s a divergence between local guidance and state guidance.”

Brooks also said the rhetoric surrounding the mask debate is out of control. She called it “more extreme than anything she’s ever seen.”

“I have gotten direct emails that I’m a child abuser, illogical, lack of intellectual curiosity, damaging to kids,” said Brooks. “It is very difficult to hear that as someone who has dedicated 25 years to this district.”