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Anti-masking parents speak to BASD board

BELLEFONTE — Although the school year just ended, a small group of parents spoke at Tuesday’s Bellefonte school board meeting to voice concerns about the 2021-22 school year.

Specifically, the parents are concerned about mask-wearing and social distancing.

The school board meeting was open to the public for the first time since last summer, when the meetings went online. Tuesday’s meeting was also streamed online.

Liz Halterman of Bellefonte, a mother of four, said that there is a “group of parents” who want to see the end of masking and social distancing as the district begins preparing for the 2021-22 school year.

“I want to ask you tonight to really, really consider that all of us parents really want to see our kids without masks and without restrictions,” Halterman said, “and I believe that a lot of you probably feel the same way. When you make this health and safety plan and you vote on it, I just really want to ask you to look at all of the data that we have shared.”

Halterman said she is a nurse and with cases of COVID-19 on the decline in Centre County, believes the district should put an end to masking and social distancing.

“I want you to take into consideration that in Centre County, the cases are way down. (Parents) don’t want masks on our kids. (Parents) don’t want social distancing. (Parents) don’t want these restrictions. No kids have died in Pennsylvania from COVID. The infection risk of kids dying from COVID is like 99.997 percent … they recover from it,” Halterman said.

Halterman was joined by a handful of other parents who also spoke out against masking.

Brandy Zimmerman of Bellefonte also spoke during public comment.

“I’m here tonight to declare my opposition to the anticipated restrictions our children are facing for the upcoming school year. I’m here tonight because the most dangerous place you can position yourself in is between a mother and a child, but here you are. You continue to deny parents the choice of doing what is best,” Zimmerman said.

Per board policy, the district did not address those who spoke during public comment.

The public comment came on the heels of an online petition entitled, “Petition to End Masking of Students In Bellefonte Area School District.”

The petition states that, “parents urgently request that Bellefonte Area School District immediately and fully revoke its policy that students must wear masks (also called face coverings) in order to attend and/or while attending school; while being transported to and from school; and while participating in any school events (including but not limited to concerts, sporting events, and clubs).”

The petition makes several claims. Among those, it says that, “requiring that students wear masks is a violation of civil liberties” and that masks “do little to nothing to protect children’s health.”

School districts througout the state typically follow the guidelines that are recommended by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. However, PDE has yet to release its recommendations for the 2021-22 school year.

Bellefonte’s Health and Safety Plan must be submitted by July 30, 2021 regardless of timeline for ESSER grant applications. Board approval must be granted and the plan must be posted on the district website by July 30, 2021. However, if a plan cannot be board approved by July 30, the unapproved plan must be uploaded to Egrants (PDE’s grant system) and then the official, board approved plan must be uploaded prior to Sept. 1, 2021.

The Bellefonte school board will meet at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 29. The meeting is open to the public and will be available on Zoom as well.

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