Board votes to make masks optional

POINT PLEASANT — The Mason County School Board voted, 5-0 Tuesday, to drop all masking mandates, making masks optional in county schools.

Council members Dale Shobe, Rhonda Tennant, Meagan Bonecutter, Jared Billings and Ashley Cossin were in attendance. Superintendent Keith Burdette was also present.

During the public delegations, Mark Oliver, parent, addressed the council. Oliver has spoken to the board several times since the start of the school year about his concern about children being masked.

“I wanted to start by saying that I appreciate the board members who stayed after the last board meeting,” Oliver said. “We had a good and healthy conversation, I enjoyed it. It’s easy for people to get in their corner and almost dehumanize others. So it’s good to talk to each other, to look each other in the eye [and] talk to each other – openly, honestly, respectfully.

Oliver also asked the board to immediately drop all mask mandates, citing that there is no scientific evidence that children should wear masks.

During the vote, several members of the council had asked to remove item 13.02 from the agenda: “recommend to the council to discuss and take possible measures for the school year 2021/22”, for discussion.

When the discussion opened up, Cossin said she was proposing to drop the mask mandate.

“I’m going to be very short, not going into personal thoughts, [my] searches over the past few weeks, none of that. I would like to propose that we stop with the masks, remove the mandate, ”said Cossin. “And with that though, looking at what several other counties have done, for me it also comes down to our nurses not looking for contracts anymore and actually going back to school nursing. Just following the usual sickness policy in that a stuffy nose doesn’t send you home, but a fever does.

Cossin addressed the positive cases, citing what other counties are doing.

“The only thing I see are positive cases, isolate yourself for the five days from the start [symptoms] or a positive test, as everywhere else does,” Cossin said. “Recommend a mask on day 6-10, they come back when they haven’t had a fever for 24 hours, which is basically what all the guidelines say.”

Cossin said she would also like families to be notified if their children have been exposed to a known positive case in their classrooms, so they can monitor for symptoms and be aware. Nurses can still report known positive cases to the health department.

“The DHHR [Department of Health and Human Resources] now wants to treat it like the flu and so that’s what we’re doing too,” Cossin said.

Tennant said she agreed with Cossin on the proposal.

“Before Christmas, some people [said] we’ll never get rid of these masks and i said i don’t believe it some of us said we want it as soon as our numbers[were where] we felt like it was okay and safe to do it,” Tennant said. “Last Thursday, the Governor of Justice announced that the number of active cases in our state is currently down 75%. It is much less.

Tennant said even looking at the weekend school numbers, they were down and the downward trend seemed to be the general consensus.

“I think now is the time for us to take that step,” Tennant said.

Bonecutter’s previous position was not of masks, but as Ohio Valley Edition previously reported, she worked to meet in the middle and only has masks when the number hits a specific threshold.

“I want it to go into effect immediately,” Bonecutter said at this week’s meeting.

“I will just say my position from day one has been optional,” Billings said. “I’m glad it looks like we’ve finally arrived. I am happy that we are finally able to move on and put this behind us, hoping to return to some normality.

“Focus on education,” Cossin said. “I miss having conversations about it. That’s what we’re here for.”

A motion has been put forward to make masks optional, with immediate effect and nurses will no longer do contact tracing. If there is a positive case, they must self-isolate for five days with masks recommended on days six to ten, when they return to school. Masks on buses are also optional.

As reported earlier in this story, the motion passed unanimously.

© 2022, Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.

Brittany Hively is a writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Follow her on Twitter @brithively; join her at (740) 446-2342 extension 2555.

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