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Local school officials best situated to decide masks

The kids are headed back to school and some adults are at odds — over masks.

Would anyone have thought, just a few short years ago, that masks would be such a controversial subject?

First, any person who freely chooses to wear a mask should be accepted with respect and without having to stare down peer pressure.

But mandated to wear a mask all day in school?

Local school districts have struggled to do what is in the best interest of the students whose safety is entrusted to them.

We are not hearing about mask mandates from any of them, even after the Centers for Disease Control recommended masking indoors again because of the state of coronavirus affairs.

While considering safety plans in July and then even without taking up the issue again, school boards throughout our region have continued to be approached by people who are adamantly against requiring students to wear masks in school.

Their conduct often has been needlessly argumentative and hostile to other perspectives, operating on an unproven assumption that they speak for the silent majority.

The message from this fraction is loud and clear: Even though safety plans and current decisions are not requiring masks, don’t even think about it in the future.

Enter rising delta variant numbers and Gov. Tom Wolf, who would remove the decision-making from local hands.

On Wednesday, the governor wrote to legislative officials, saying Pennsylvania schools need a statewide requirement that students in classrooms wear masks as protection against the coronavirus.

Powerless to issue a mandate of this nature himself following passage of a statewide referendum in May that curbed a governor’s emergency powers, Wolf wants the Legislature to return to Harrisburg immediately to work on a bill to order schools and child care facilities to require masks in classrooms.

We believe his apparent one-size-fits-all approach is wrong. Where there are severe outbreaks of the virus, a mass mandate makes sense to stem the disease and eradicate it.

But decisions such as this should be left in local hands.

Local people know the situation in their area best.

And we believe that local school officials are better equipped to make decisions and take care of students and staff in their facilities — better than either the governor or the most vocal majority.

We also believe energy would be better spent on getting more shots into more arms and taking big steps toward winning the war against the coronavirus, lest it become America’s next 20-year war.

Local officials best situated to make decisions on masks.

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