Parents spoke out Monday at a Kenston Local School District Board of Education meeting objecting to the reinstated mask mandate that took effect on Aug. 10.
Kelly Deluca of Bainbridge Township questioned why the board bases its decisions on officials including Geauga Public Health Commissioner Thomas Quade, who was recently under scrutiny for a Facebook post. Mrs. Deluca said the board is taking recommendations from politically biased individuals.
“I know you’re frustrated with this too, but do better,” Mrs. Deluca said to the board.
Medical experts have recommended wearing masks indoors to prevent the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus as case numbers continue to increase. The worldwide pandemic began in early 2020. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave final approval for the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine this week. It has been available since late 2020 under emergency use. But not all people are open to getting the vaccine. It is not approved for children 12 and under, prompting some school districts to have a mask policy.
Cameron Small of Auburn Township questioned the constitutionality of the Kenston mask mandate.
“There are certain liberties and freedoms that other countries don’t have,” Mr. Small said to the board. He also stated that masks are not mentioned anywhere in the U.S. Constitution.
Lisa Lesnar of Auburn Township told the board that there are still many questions left to be answered, such as students wearing masks for one day followed by being unmasked the next.
The Kenston policy calls for students, teachers and other employees to wear masks inside buildings and on school buses. No mask is required outside on school grounds.
Chester Township resident Theresa DiNallo said the board has “overstepped the Constitution” in enforcing the mask mandate. Despite not living within the Kenston school district, Mrs. DiNallo said she had every right to speak at the meeting due to her concern for parents and children in Geauga County.
Board President Beth Krause said that she has not researched the claims Mrs. DiNallo made regarding the constitutionality of the mandate.
Some parents did support the mask policy. Charlotte Gruver of Auburn Township said she stands with the board.
Dr. Krause said the board considers recommendations from health experts when deciding the best direction to take for the safety of students, faculty and staff. The decision could change as information and recommendations change over time, she said.
Dr. Krause said that the board recognizes the strong beliefs and emotions on issues, including wearing masks.
“It makes it very difficult for everybody involved, but the board has to make the best decision they see fit with full knowledge that someone is going to be upset. That’s the responsibility of the board,” she said.
District Superintendent Nancy Santilli said the district is committed to doing everything possible to keep schools open for in-person learning while providing opportunities for athletic and extracurricular activities for students.
“Our first priority is always the safety and well-being of our students,” Mrs. Santilli said. “We advocate and strongly believe that our students are most successful when taught in-person by our accomplished and nurturing staff and in the company of their classmates and friends.”
The next Kenston Board of Education meeting is at the Kenston High School Auburn Bainbridge Room on Sept. 20 at 7 p.m.