Martinsburg, W.Va. (WDVM) — August 23rd marks the first day back at school for Berkeley County K-12 students. Some parents are not happy with one policy the school district implemented this week – the mask mandate.
A group of parents protested outside the Board of Education administration building on Monday morning to voice their frustrations on how they do not have a say on whether or not their children should wear a mask.
“They sent out a letter and an e-mail to say they gonna impose a mask mandate, they claimed it depends on how many positive cases in the county, and I am not sure how they get the numbers,” said Tiffany Wallech, a Hedgesville parent who came to protest the policy. “Parents are upset, at this point, they are taking away our freedom of choice, we don’t ask the health department or our doctors to tell what to do with our children in the school, I don’t think the school has the right and it’s beyond their jurisdiction to tell us what to do with our children’s health.” she added.
Wallech is also concern wearing a mask could somehow impact the children’s interpersonal interaction within the school, “Kindergarten, and first-grader read the expression on people’s faces, now they don’t have an expression on their faces, teachers, and people around them.” she says.
Dawn Zimmerman, who lives in Berkeley County, joined the protest today and shares the same opinion as Wallech. “It’s not up to the county boards, it’s not up to the health department, it’s up to each individual’s parent, as an American, to choose for their children,” Zimmerman said.
In response to the mask mandate, the Berkeley County Board of Education sent this statement to WDVM:
Today was a successful day across Berkeley County Schools with our students back in our classrooms. Our staff worked hard all summer preparing for the celebratory return today. I want to thank our students, staff and families for a great start.
The decision to wear face coverings in schools is predicated by the health of our community and as directed by our health officer on behalf of the Berkeley- Morgan County Board of Health. When Covid-19 transmissions are high or substantial face coverings will be required. As our community becomes healthier, experiencing fewer Covid-19 transmissions, the status of face coverings can move to highly recommended. Face covering don’t have to last all year. Our whole community can help keep our students stay in school and lower the transmission of Covid-19 in our community through mitigations factors as described by the West Virginia Department of Education, and the CDC, specifically face coverings and vaccines.Superintendent Dr. Patrick K. Murphy, Berkeley County School
The Berkeley County School District implements the mask mandate on weekly basis based on the data from Berkeley County Health Department. According to the Health Department, from August 13 to August 19, 346 new cases were reported in the county and it was considered to have a high transmission level. Based on the data, the school district requires students and faculty to wear the mask inside the building with the exception of eating food and sports activities, while wearing masks outdoor is strongly recommended.
The Board of Education will revisit the policy on Friday, August 27, to decide what policy they will adopt next week.