The Cumberland Valley School Board voted Tuesday night to consider rescinding the district’s entire 2021-22 health and safety plan at the board’s next scheduled meeting later this month.
The school board approved adding the item to its Sept. 20 meeting agenda in a 6-3 vote on Tuesday, the same day an order by the state’s acting secretary of health went into effect requiring all students and staff in Pennsylvania schools to wear face coverings indoors regardless of their vaccine status.
Board member Bud R. Shaffner proposed Tuesday that the board consider rescinding the health and safety plan after roughly two dozen people spoke out against the district following the state’s masking mandate during the school board meeting’s public comment sessions. Residents’ remarks included accusations that district COVID-19 policies outlined by Superintendent David Christopher earlier in the meeting “punished” unvaccinated students.
In his update, Christopher said exposed students can immediately exit quarantine if they’re not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and are at a lower risk of developing COVID-19 under these conditions:
- They are fully vaccinated
- They can demonstrate that they were COVID-19 positive in the preceding 90 days prior to exposure
- They can demonstrate that they had COVID-19 antibodies in the preceding 90 days prior to exposure or within 7 days after exposure.
- The board approved Shaffner’s proposal to consider rescinding the district’s existing health and safety plan on Sept. 20, with board president Brian Drapp and members Heather Dunn and Barbara Geistwhite voting against the move. Dunn said it was “too soon” to consider eliminating this year’s plan.
“We are only into one week of school now. We haven’t even let our (existing) plan take hold for this year,” she said.
Shaffner declined comment after the meeting. However, at previous school board meetings he has opposed mandating universal masking in district schools. The CV school board on May 24 voted to lift the district’s standing mask mandate for unvaccinated people as of June 5, a proposal introduced by Shaffner.
Days later, the state Education Department notified the district it has no jurisdiction to take such action and that the mask mandate would continue as enforced by the Department of Education and the state Department of Health.
According to the district’s August 2021 back-to-school planning guide, the state order now in effect supersedes the district’s own health and safety plan for this school year.
On Aug. 2, the Cumberland Valley School Board approved a health and safety plan for the 2021-22 school year that made face masks optional for students and staff. The plan also said students and staff aren’t required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend classes or work at schools “unless this, like other required vaccinations, is required by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.”
Christopher said district officials worked on this year’s health and safety plan in June and July before COVID case numbers began an abrupt upswing in the region due to the highly contagious delta variant. As approved last month, the “living document” remains open for review during the school year “if (COVID) cases and spread within the district and buildings increases.”
On Aug. 23, the board voted 4-3 to revise the district’s safety plan to include a clause implementing mandatory masking in schools if COVID-19 case rates in the county reach a level of “high transmission.” Christopher recommended the change to avoid having an unsustainable amount of students out of school due to quarantine during the school year. Of the seven board members present that night, Shaffner, Michelle Nestor and Jessica Silcox voted against the change. Mike Gossert and Jevon Ford were absent.
The CDC defines “high transmission,” in part, as 100 or more cases per 100,000 people over the most recent seven-day span, the metric cited in CV’s safety plan that was approved Aug. 23. As a result, the district implemented a mask mandate indoors in all district buildings for the week of Aug. 20-Sept. 5 due to the county’s high transmission status on the state Department of Health’s Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard that week.