Putnam County Schools mask policy criticized by WVEA
PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) is speaking out against Putnam County schools after the board of education passed what they are calling a universal mask policy Friday morning.
Dale Lee, the president of the WVEA says he believes the policy is a violation of West Virginia’s Reporter Disease Rule 64 CSR7-3, which is cited in the West Virginia Department of Education’s guidance on page nine and 10.
“They are trying to make their own rules in Putnam County, and we’re going to do everything we can to insure the safety of our educators and our students there and everyone’s family,” said Lee.
Putnam County Schools universal mask policy leaves masks optional until 25% of students in a high school test positive and 15% for middle and elementary schools. Contact tracing will no longer take place and seating charts will not be kept.
“That’s unreasonable numbers. We know, everyone knows that the best safety measures are vaccines and masks and social distancing and you’re not going to get there with 25% or until 15% until you’re requiring masks. They are just really circumventing the masks rules,” said Lee.
Lee says he believes the lack of contact tracing will create an even larger outbreak of COVID-19.
“You’re going to have students come to school sick which is the worse thing that could happen,” said Lee.
WSAZ reached out to Putnam County Schools board President Rob Cunningham and he declined an interview after hearing our questions but sent us a statement:
“Mr. Lee certainly has his own agenda for his organization. Just as our plan does not fit his agenda, his plan does not fit the agenda we have for educating our students. Our agenda in Putnam Co schools is to provide a quality education to all of our students. We are an educational institution, not a medical institution. The DHHR, the Putnam (County) Health Department and the Governor each have the legal authority to mandate masks. To date they have not. The current orders from the chief medical officer in Putnam Co are to recommend masks, so we certainly do recommend masks.
Cunningham would not answer our questions about the lack of contact tracing while masks are still optional, or if he feels this goes around state guidelines. He continued with his statement:
“Our charge is to educate our children and that is exactly what we are going to do. This new policy will maximize the educational and social opportunities, as well as enhance the emotional well being for our students. Quarantining healthy students and attempting to educate remotely has proven to be detrimental to our educational system, so in Putnam (County) we (are) going to lead from the front by dedicating all of our efforts and all of our employees time to maximizing the educational experience for our students.”
Lee agreed in person learning is the goal, but only in a safe manner.
“All of us want our students in front of us that’s the number one goal of everyone is to have the students in front of us but with that being said put the safety measures in place to insure that that’s going to happen more often than not,” said Lee.
Lee says the WVEA will be contacting the DHHR, WVDE and the governor’s office in regard to what they believe to be violations of the rules. He said if those entities do not require Putnam County schools to comply, the WVEA will pursue other avenues to keep students safe.
WSAZ reached out to the Putnam County Board of Health Chairwoman Cindy Farley for a statement however, Farley never replied back.
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