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Putnam County Board of Education has no plans to change their mask policy

Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 12:27 AM EDT
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PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The controversial mask policy in Putnam County was addressed during Monday night’s Board of Education meeting but only by public speakers.

“I think that I’m speaking on behalf of the parents, educators, students and the families of Putnam County and I say that because (of) the number of calls I received from parents and from educators across (about) concern for their students,” said West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee.

President of the WVEA, Dale Lee asked Putnam County BOE to revoke their current mask policy and...
President of the WVEA, Dale Lee asked Putnam County BOE to revoke their current mask policy and implement a new one.(WSAZ)

Lee was one of three speakers during the meeting Monday night all of which spoke in favor of a mask mandate and against the current Putnam County mask policy. The policy only requires masks for high schools when 25% of students are COVID-19 positive. For elementary and middle schools, 15% of students would have to be positive for a mask mandate.

“When you have a policy that will say over 300 students at Hurricane High School will have to have COVID before you start any of the masks mandates, you already have a huge spread then (and) that’s just putting kids at risks,” Lee told WSAZ. “I wanted to ask them to rescind that policy.”

Board of Education President Rob Cunningham said he has no plans of revoking the policy or making adjustments.

“As far as I know, there’s been no one within the school board that has any interest in changing the policy or adapting the policy,” Cunningham said. “Of course, if the Governor’s office, or the DHHR, or the Putnam County health board mandates something, of course we’ll follow it.”

The new policy also does not require seating charts to be kept, which is vital in helping the health department contact trace when there is a positive student.

Cindy Farley, chairwoman of the board of health, told WSAZ they have not been successful in contact tracing since the new policy went into effect last week. On Friday, Farley said the schools delivered envelopes or binders with seating charts of each school but did not divide the students up by each class. Farley said they would have to go through page by page to find just one name, if a students tests positive, to see who they were around. She said this is not an effective or usable way to contact trace.

“It’s our job to do and we’re trying to do it but it’s also a give and take,” Farley said.

“Our policy doesn’t permit to seating charts. I talked to Mr. Hudson about what he has provided the health department, the health department has a complete roster of our students,” Cunningham said. “They actually have more than what they would have say a local church has someone that’s positive, how are they doing that contact tracing? They don’t have seating charts for each Sunday service, they contact the person who was positive and do the investigation from there I would assume that’s how they need to proceed with our schools, students.”

Farley said she is planning on working with the schools to try and come up with a better system.

The next board meeting will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 18.

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