The Neshaminy School Board has reversed course and voted to mandate masks for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Dozens of parents came out to overwhelmingly support keeping the optional mask policy at Tuesday night’s meeting. But ultimately the board voted for a mandatory policy on a 5-4 split.
As it stands now, the mask mandate will only last through October 1, 2021. Unless the board later extends the mandate, the policy will default to optional masks.
School Board President Stephen Pirritano cast the deciding vote.
“We are not medical directors up here. That’s not our job,” said Pirritano of his peers on the board. “Our job is to provide an education for our children, your children, this community’s children.”
Pirritano added he weighed the prospect of further learning loss against one month of mandatory masking to make his decision.
In the updated Health and Safety Plan, Superintendent Dr. Rob McGee explained the district’s approach to the new policy.
“The goal is to balance the least restrictive environment with student and staff safety; the
need for top-notch, interactive, collaborative, in-person instruction; and getting the most
students back to school.”
At Tuesday night’s meeting, McGee added that in the past they’ve successfully followed guidance from the Bucks County Department of Health which ran counter to the CDC.
“We find ourselves in a situation now that we don’t have that partner recommending us do other things. Their recommendations recommend that we follow the CDC on masking. That’s the significant difference.”
McGee is referencing recent changes in guidance from county health officials. The new policy recommends Bucks schools to follow CDC guidelines, including on mask mandates.
The new recommendations on masks are:
- All individuals (students, teachers, staff, visitors) should wear masks in schools K-12 to begin the school year regardless of vaccination status.
- Individuals do not need to wear masks when outdoors.
- Per the CDC order on wearing masks on public transportation, regardless of the school mask policy, masks are required to be worn by passengers and drivers on school buses.
McGee noted Damsker calls the new plan “targeted, temporary mitigation.”
Neshaminy is not the only district changing course. The Council Rock School District is holding a board meeting this week to review its mask optional policy.