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LOGAN — The Logan County Board of Education convened in special session Thursday evening, where they voted to implement a universal indoor mask policy that became effective Friday, Sept. 10.

The decision reverses the board’s earlier action on Aug. 19 that gave students and staff the individual option of whether or not to wear masks. Under the new guidelines, all staff, students and visitors — regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status — are required to wear masks inside facilities operated by Logan County Schools if the county is red, orange or gold on the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resource’s county alert system map.

Board members voted unanimously on the matter upon the recommendation of Superintendent Patricia Lucas. Lucas based her recommendation off recently revised guidance from the West Virginia Department of Education, which itself is based off of recommendations by Dr. Ayne Amjad, who is West Virginia’s state health officer and Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau for Public Health.

Under the revised state guidance, quarantine of students and staff who have been exposed to a person with COVID-19 is not required if masks are worn at the point of exposure, including during extracurricular activities. The guidance applies to schools with a universal mask mandate in place.

“With the information provided to us and the language changed, my recommendation is to go for, to put in place, a universal mask requirement beginning tomorrow, Sept. 10, 2021,” Lucas said.

Before board members voted on the matter, Board President Jeremy Farley read the county’s new guidelines out loud. They are divided into two categories: K-12 and adult students, staff, and visitors, and pre-K students and staff.

Guidelines for K-12 and adult students, staff and visitors is as follows:

  • All staff, students, and visitors, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status are required to wear masks indoors.
  • Students with certain medical, sensory, cognitive, or behavioral needs may not be required to wear a mask. An accommodation will be determined on an individual basis. Exemptions will be a school team decision and not based solely on a doctor’s note. Students applying for this exemption for a medical condition will be required to submit a Student Face Covering Exemption Form completed by a health care provider.
  • Employees with a documented medical condition prohibiting the wearing of a face mask should consult with the Director of Personnel regarding the process for requesting an exemption.
  • Masks are not required outdoors but may be worn at the discretion of each individual.
  • All staff and students, regardless of their COVID-19 vaccination status, are required to wear masks on school busses unless an exemption has been approved.
  • Music, band and choir classes will proceed as normal except that singers must wear masks indoors.
  • As per CDC guidelines, gaiters and face shields are not approved substitutes for a face mask.
  • A staff member who is alone in their classroom or other office area may remove their mask if no other students or staff are present.
  • Staff members conducting meetings in offices or classrooms should wear masks, unless all adults have been vaccinated and remain more than six feet apart.
  • Students are not required to wear a face mask while actively eating or drinking during school mealtimes.
  • If Logan County is designated green or yellow on the WVDHHR map for a period of not less than five consecutive days, the use of a face mask for K-12 and adult program students and staff is not required but is strongly encouraged for unvaccinated individuals.

For pre-K students and staff, the guidelines are as follows:

  • Pre-K students are required to wear face masks throughout the day, with the knowledge and understanding of what is developmentally appropriate for this age group. Teachers will communicate to parents/guardians that there will be a learning period for young children. Parents of pre-K students are asked to send their child to school with a face mask, but face masks will be provided for any student who may need one. Students will be taught and encouraged with positive reinforcement.
  • All pre-K staff and visitors, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status, are required to wear masks in school buildings unless an exemption has been granted.

Board members said the goal of the new guidelines are part of an effort to keep students in school and prevent a similar situation to last year. The board also hopes that the continuity of in-person instruction will be better by masking up. Since school began Aug. 26, students in different grade levels and those who are unvaccinated have repeatedly alternated between in-person and remote learning after COVID-19 exposures led to the need for contact tracing.

“Thank you, Mrs. Lucas, for making your recommendation,” said board member Debbie Mendez. “I think it’s the right thing to do. Not everybody will agree with that, but I know that we’ve made a lot of people happy by doing this decision. Time will tell. Now that we’re going to wear the masks, let’s see how far it spreads and how fast it spreads.”

Mendez said she is in favor of temporarily closing schools if deemed necessary.

“I do recommend that if it does continue to outbreak, we should close,” Mendez added. “I’m definitely not for remote. It does not work for us. We know that it doesn’t work for us, but if it does come to the point where we need to stop and let the kids off for a couple days, clean real good, and regroup, I am for that, and I think that (Lucas) should have the say in whether it should come to that.”

At the beginning of the meeting, six people addressed the board during the public comments period regarding the issue. The opinion of the room was split evenly, with Jessica Carter, Dawn Canterbury and Teresa Brooks speaking in favor of a mask mandate, while Eugene Mazzocchi, Georgia Collins and David Farmer spoke against one.

HD Media news reporter Dylan Vidovich can be contacted via email at dvidovich@hdmediallc.com.

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