Rockingham County school board votes 3-2 to continue masking

Rockingham County Public Schools
Rockingham County Public Schools(WHSV)
Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 6:42 PM EST
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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - The Rockingham County School Board met Monday, and among other items on the agenda, discussed the school division’s COVID-19 mitigation strategies and potential changes.

Last month, the school board voted 3-2 to keep masks for now but agreed to reconsider the issue of masks in schools at its meeting on Feb. 28, but on Monday the board discussed making changes sooner based on the level of current community spread and a vote looming from Governor Glenn Youngkin, which would allow parents to opt-out of masking in schools.

However, the school board voted 3-2 once again to keep masks for now, but make them optional if and when the level of community spread drops or if the law changes.

Board members Matt Cross and Jackie Lohr both voted against the motion, hoping to give parents the option now.

“I don’t want to hear any more about the community spread and all that. I want to know the pediatric doctors are saying with kids and how it affects them because that’s who I’m serving up here,” Cross said. “I’m serving the 11,000 children in Rockingham County.”

“Spread is high, but allow the parents to choose, but you’re also allowing the parents that want their children to wear a mask to choose,” Lohr said.

The board did make a unanimous vote to allow some students to take the masks off. Because athletes can opt out of mask-wearing, the board thought it would be fair that all students participating in voluntary extracurricular activities like musicals or clubs, do the same.

According to the division’s COVID-19 dashboard, there were 82 active cases among students and staff throughout the division as of Monday.

With cases around the area declining and potential masking changes on the horizon directly from the governor, the board could limit contact tracing to outbreaks where there are three or more connected cases in schools.

“If we’re now focusing on outbreaks rather than contact tracing every close contact then it’s really important that we understand that parental rights come also with the responsibility to let the school know when a student is positive,” said Dr. Oskar Scheikl, Superintendent of Rockingham County Public Schools.

“We’ve had some issues with that on occasion where students came to school knowing they were COVID positive and that puts people at risk,” Scheikl said.

The board also went over two drafts for the 2022-2023 school calendar and heard a budget proposal, then established a committee to evaluate the potential adoption of the Ramsey Education Program that will help students learn about economics and personal finance.

“Econ and personal finance is something we’ve focused on more over the last few years to make sure students have those skills and abilities to manage their personal finances, we need to make sure students learn those key life skills, and this is one of them so this Ramsey program looks really promising but that’s not a decision we just make at Central Office,” said Scheikl.

The school board meeting started at 7 p.m. at the Rockingham County Administration Center.

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