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Brooke County school mask order opposed

MASK ORDER OPPOSED — Martin Wood of Follansbee was one of two parents who asked the Brooke County Board of Education on Monday to reconsider its recent order that students, staff and visitors in schools wear masks. School officials said the order is in effect until Oct. 8, when the board will re-evaluate it. -- Warren Scott

WELLSBURG — The Brooke County Board of Education heard from two parents who oppose the school district’s recent order for students, staff and visitors in all schools to wear masks until at least Oct. 8.

On Monday, Martin Wood of Follansbee warned the board he would file suit against any school personnel who required his children to wear masks as well as the school board itself.

Wood noted the board has been elected and could be removed by the public.

But he also encouraged the board to read two books he said refute common beliefs about COVID-19 and look into studies he said concluded that only use of a N95 mask, not cloth ones, can prevent spread of the virus.

Brad Voiers, also of Follansbee, told the board, “There’s no law that justifies a mask mandate.”

Voiers said youth wearing masks have experienced rashes and acne, don’t breathe in sufficient oxygen and suffer socially because it’s more difficult to communicate with each other.

He said one of the school district’s athletic teams recently played a visiting team whose players were spitting and sweating and it seemed unfair to him, to require the county’s students to mask.

“I plead for you to do the right thing when the time comes,” Voiers told the board.

The mask order was issued on Wednesday, with school officials citing “a dramatic increase in the number of students identified as positive for COVID-19 and students placed on quarantine due to an exposure to the virus.”

On Monday, Superintendent Jeffrey Crook said a number of people in the school district, including several athletes, have been ordered to quarantine following exposure to others who tested positive for the virus.

He noted the state health department doesn’t require quarantine of those in the school district who were masked at the time of exposure to someone with COVID-19.

Crook said with that in mind, masking allows more students to remain in school, which he believes is better for them educationally.

He said students found to have had contact with a positive case must remain at home for 10 to 14 days, during which their teachers send school work to their homes.

Board President Ted Pauls said, “Our decision is based on the county health department’s and state department of education’s recommendation.”

Crook said when the board revisits the order on Oct. 8, it will consider the number of cases in the county and the number of quarantines ordered within the school district.

On Monday the Brooke County Health Department reported 167 cases, up from 122 last Tuesday.

In other business, the board:

– Observed a moment of silence for the late Christina Kerns, a teacher at Brooke Intermediate South who died following recurring health problems, on Sept. 8 at the age of 30.

Crook said Kerns built positive relationships with her students and parents and other community members.

“She was always great in the classroom and with people,” he said.

– Agreed to advertise for a bank or other organization to provide portable automated teller machines for school events at which food and other items are sold.

Crook suggested the move, citing public input, while adding the entity behind the ATMs must be liable for them.

– Approved the $14,000 purchase, using state funds, of computer software from Edmentum for use by students making up for failed courses. It also approved the $21,000 purchase of 11 interactive smart televisions for classrooms.

– Approved agreements with Little Bear Daycare of Weirton and Follansbee and Northern Panhandle Head Start to provide pre-kindergarten instruction to about 56 pupils. The arrangement was established several years ago to allow the school district to extend its pre-school program beyond its own buildings.

– Approved an observance of Celebrate Freedom Week on Nov. 8-12 in all schools with instruction centered around the United States’ origin and its founding documents.

– Was advised by Dee Parr, the school district’s treasurer, expenditures by the county’s schools must in the future be logged at the board’s office to comply with new state guidelines for financial records.

Parr said doing so will involve regular visits to the schools so she’s recommending creating another position at the board office.

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