During a February 17th meeting, the Colonial School Board voted to drop the requirement for masking in each individual school as of March 9th as long as the schools individually have no more than 3% of its students and staff having positive cases.
Going forward, if an individual school has 3% or more of its student body and staff infected, that specific school would return to masking for two weeks. For example, Plymouth Whitemarsh High School would need to see 45 to 50 students/staff members test positive during the same time period to trigger the mask requirement.
The decision came after a long session of public comment and debate among the border members. The majority of parents who spoke were in favor of removing the requirement for a mask. They cited the experience of other states that have not required masks and the psychological impact of masking on their children.
The original motion was based on a recommendation from Superintendent Dr. Michael Christian that he had based on Montgomery County’s recommendation involving masks. The motion read:
Motion to approve revisions to the Colonial School District’s 2021-2022 Health and Safety Plan as presented and that the Superintendent is hereby granted discretion to implement modifications to the District’s 2021-2022 Health and Safety Plan consistent with the intent of the Board as expressed in this motion. Specifically, CSD will recommend (but not require) masking while indoors for all students and staff as of March 9, 2022, provided the District’s COVID-19 rates are not at the high level of transmission. The high level is defined as positive COVID-19 cases greater than 100 per 100,000 people or a positivity rate greater than 10%. The district will require masking if the transmission levels return to the “high” range for 2 consecutive weeks.
During public comment, some parents challenged the premise that the masking policy for the district and the individual schools should not be based on the positivity rates involving the overall population of the district’s municipalities. One parent was concerned that an outbreak in a confined congregate-care facility would result in students returning to masks.
During the discussion among the board members, Board Member Jamina Clay made two motions that revised the language that was recommended by the superintendent. The motion was initially revised to move the date for dropping the mask requirement to February 28th, but that was, in the end, moved back to March 9th. The reasoning was that the board wanted to provide time for those who wanted to get vaccinated or obtain the more effective N-95 masks. There was also concern that due to the holiday weekend, February 28th only allowed the schools four workdays to prepare.
There was also discussion among the board on whether to keep the superintendent’s recommendation regarding the metric that would trigger the return to masks or set one based solely on the situation within each individual school. The members of the board eventually agreed to 3% within individual schools to be the benchmark regarding the return to masking.
Also during public comment, there was also a suggestion from a parent that signage around the schools with messaging such as “Heroes wear masks” be removed. Since there will now be students and staff choosing to go maskless, the parent believed that such messaging was inappropriate. The board agreed that this messaging should be removed.
The school district’s policy on masking is now outside of the current recommendations from the county and the CDC. However, it is being reported that the CDC is likely to change its recommendation next week, which would likely then result in a change at the county level.
You can watch the meeting below. It is cued to start with the public comment that came before the board discussion and vote.