When: Conestoga Valley school board meeting, Sept. 13, in person and via YouTube.
What happened: Effective Monday, Sept. 20, a child who does not wear a mask and does not have an approved exemption will not be permitted to be in school for in-person instruction, but instead will be enrolled in the district’s virtual academy, Superintendent Dave Zuilkoski announced before most residents filed into the meeting. About 100 residents filled the Gerald G. Huesken Middle School auditorium during an emotional meeting to show their opposition to the state Department of Health’s school mask mandate that Conestoga Valley has complied with.
Quotable: “For those parents or guardians who choose not to start or complete the (exemption) plan process, their child will be considered not exempt from the order,” Zuilkoski said.
Public comment: Of the 37 community members who spoke, only one was in favor of students wearing masks. Olivia Hess, a CV graduate who is majoring in secondary education at Millersville University, spoke in favor of wearing masks. Following Hess’s pro-mask comments, some residents muttered in disagreement, but board President Todd Shertzer said, “not acceptable” and they stopped. Resident Tom Raff, a doctor who works for Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, talked about the dangers of COVID-19. However, he said he was “not there to convince you to wear masks” and he was not wearing a mask.
Parent grievances: Common themes among the residents who spoke included the idea that masks should be a parent choice, that the district should administer a survey on how parents feel about masks, and that the district should accept a waiver from parents exempting their children from masking. Under the Department of Health’s mandate, parents must provide an exemption from their child’s medical provider so they will not be required to wear masks. Several parents said physicians refuse to provide exemptions from masking. Many residents also said their children have anxiety and headaches from wearing a mask all day.
Other business: Michael Smith, high school principal, introduced a new initiative called the Bench Mark Program, in which program founder Will Kiefer will come to CV to work with at-risk youth in personal training and leadership development. The cost of the program, funded by a private donor, is $5,000 for one year.
— Anne Garber,
For LNP | LancasterOnline