Putnam County Schools adopt new measures to supplement their mask policy

Education

PUTNAM COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – The mask debate continues for schools in Putnam County. The Board of Education held a special meeting Friday morning to supplement a universal masking policy approved earlier this week.

Not as many people showed up to this meeting as previously, and only seven people signed up to talk, however, when the meeting ended, people from both sides of the mask debate were confused and frustrated.

“Like that’s one time when we all were in agreement was we had no clue, and it was very very very frustrating,” said Tiffany Lemasters, a parent of a Putnam County student.

The current policy is that masks are optional for students unless 25% of students in grades 9 through 12 test positive positive for COVID-19 and 15% of students Kindergarten through 8th grade test positive. If that threshold is met, masks will be mandatory. Parents are sharing their frustration.

“I am a certified math teacher, I have a degree in mathematics, and a minor in secondary education and if they put a universal mask mandate in Putnam County I will pull them and I will home school my kids,” said Maria Crackett.

Other parents argue masks will only help the county’s situation. “If everyone wears a mask all the time we don’t have to quarantine at all…And I think that would really help getting that information out there and I’m wondering why the board hasn’t done a better job of getting that information out there,” said Hanna Thurman.

In addition to masks, the new measures state quarantine will be in accordance with the DHHR. As far as quarantining students, Putnam County schools do not have the authority. “It’s the responsibility of any board of education to listen to the public. Our board has listened to the public. They took action Monday and are supplementing that action today,” said Superintendent John Hudson.

Parents who attended this meeting say they feel helpless and left in the dark. “From the governor, to the West Virginia Department of Education, to the local level. The local level is too concerned with politics to make a decision, based on the health and well being of our children,” said Elizabeth Hill.

These are the measures approved by the Board of Education at Friday’s meeting:

It is the intent of the Board of Education to comply with laws while promulgating the
following regarding the motion for Mandating Masks that was approved by a unanimous
vote at the Regular Meeting held on September 20, 2021:

  • The policy enacted by the Board on September 20 is intended to optimize the education
    of our students while following all written mandates of the Putnam County Heath Board
    and Chief Medical Officer
  • It is the Board’s Opinion that, in view of the Board’s Universal Masking Policy, contact
    tracing is unnecessary as per DHHR policy outlined in the WVDE School Recovery and
    Guidance Document updated September 3, 2021. In addition, the WVDE does not list
    Putnam County Schools as a county where masks are optional. Students and staff not
    wearing a mask at the point of exposure to a positive COVID-19 person, whether
    vaccinated or unvaccinated, are potentially exposed to PCHD contact tracing and
    possible quarantining.
  • Quarantine shall be in accordance with DHHR written directions/state code. The Putnam
    County Health Department has the quarantine authority as quarantining is a codified
    jurisdiction of the Putnam County Health Department. Therefore, Putnam County
    Schools does not have the authority to quarantine students.
  • Employees of the Putnam County Board of Education are not required to perform duties
    outside regular school hours or required to work overtime to assist the Putnam County
    Health Department with contact tracing. Putnam County School Employees will not
    perform contact tracing on behalf of Putnam County Health Department while COVID
    Universal Mask Mandate policy is in effect.
  • Establish a COVID positive reporting system/procedure/mailbox/app that administrators
    utilize to submit positive students names.
  • Utilize one single Putnam County Schools employee that will serve as the reporting
    agent to the Putnam County Health Department contact. This employee shall be the
    Superintendent or his designee and may change as situations warrant. This is the only
    employee authorized to communicate student infection/health information to the
    Putnam County Health Department concerning COVID positive infections.
  • Notifications of COVID positives should be made to the Putnam County Health
    Department via email/written communication at least by 4:00 pm each school day.
    It is the board’s strong preference that, in order to avoid misunderstanding and help
    ensure compliance, all PCHD recommendations and orders be in written format to pivot
    from one status to the other.
  • The policy passed by the Putnam County Board of Education on September does not
    preclude anyone from wearing a proper health mask as long as the Putnam County
    Health Department continues to recommend universal mask wearing.
    As long as individual schools are below 15% threshold for elementary and middle schools
    and 25% threshold for high schools, no seating charts shall be required or
    maintained. Once above the threshold the superintendent could direct seating charts at
    his direction.

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