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Kanawha County to require masks for PreK-5 students, faculty

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 4:49 PM EDT
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KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The Kanawha County School Board announced Monday that masks will be required in the upcoming school year for students in grades Pre-K through 5th grade.

“We’re facing this (Delta) variant that is traveling faster than the original strain,” said Board Member Ric Cavender, “we have an opportunity to keep it at bay and to stop it as much as we can, I feel like we should take every opportunity we can to do that.”

President of the board, Tracy White said she’s had about 125 different comments from the public about the topic and that an overwhelming majority did not want the masks to be a requirement.

“Four to one (ratio), it’s not even close, parents want that choice,” said White. “I’ve had elected officials contacting me who are hearing from their constituents so that’s just what I went with, I mean I try to vote according to who contacts me, I’m just the person who sits on the board, I try to use my voice as what they ask for.”

White along with board member Jim Crawford voted against requiring masks making the decision pass in a 3-2 vote during Monday’s meeting.

Board members called the decision a compromise as they did not make masks mandatory for all grades.

“I respect every one of our board members up there, everyone had valid concerns,” White told WSAZ. “This isn’t a win or lose vote I had said before we voted that whatever the outcome was, I would 100 percent support that outcome once we left.”

“That’s how it is when you’re on a board and you share that board with four other people that you’ve been elected to serve on, you do compromise,” said Cavender. “This isn’t the first time that’s happened and it won’t be the last.”

The requirement is mandatory for everyone inside Pre-K through 5th grade school buildings, including parents and guests. It’s also required for buses that run students in Pre-K through 5th grades, whether you are vaccinated or not.

For students in grades 6th up to 12th, masks will be optional.

“We’ve had the Governor announce that he’s not going to stress the fact of wearing the mask right now and now we’re going to stick masks on the elementary kids, the ones that don’t even wear them properly, the ones that are coming to school daily with a dirty mask on (as) they touch their face, pull the mask down,” said Carri Pringle, who has one child in kindergarten and another in eighth grade. “The division is one of the main things, we can’t go back to normal like this, this isn’t normal so now in my house it’s divided.”

“The information we’re seeing now about this Delta variant shows how contagious it is,” said Sarah Brown who has one child in third grade and another in kindergarten. “We know kids can get the virus and they can spread the virus so not only am I concerned about what my kids might be exposed to and what they might bring home to grandparents (but) if students get COVID, we’re likely to see quarantines, remote learning and I think that’s much more disruptive to students than wearing a mask.”

Board member Ryan White cited the State of Ohio and CDC guidance as he was in favor of requiring masks for all students.

Board member Jim Crawford said he believes the virus is real however, without a mask mandate from the Governor, he believes the decision should be up to the parents and that the board would be “overstepping” in making the decision for them.

Governor Jim Justice announced on Monday that right now, he has no plans to reinstate the mask mandate.

The CDC recommends fully vaccinated people to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission to try and eliminate the spread of COVID-19 and “maximize protection” from the Delta Variant. This recommendation comes as the Delta variant has been making it’s way throughout the nation.

If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you should get tested 3-5 days after your exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms. You should also wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until your test result is negative. You should isolate for 10 days if your test result is positive.

The board says if additional guidance or mandates are passed down from the state level, the district will adjust its guidance.

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