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Mask rules not expected to impact reopening plan

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry The Warren Area Elementary Center is pictured on Monday. Updated mandates regarding face masks is not expected to impact a reopening plan by the school district.

New mask rules aren’t causing Warren County School District to trash its reopening plan.

The school board had just given a final set of instructions regarding its reopening plan when Gov. Tom Wolf changed the rules again.

On Monday, June 29, the board gave Superintendent Amy Stewart several targets to hit along the way to a reopening plan. The board expects to vote on a plan during its July 13 meeting.

On Wednesday, Wolf announced new, expanded mask requirements. He has since stated that the changes could be in place until a COVID-19 vaccine is ready.

There are also new travel-related quarantine recommendations.

Stewart said the plan will be adjusted and the district will be prepared for that rule to last through the start of school.

“We don’t know how long that’s expected to stay in place,” Stewart said Monday. “The only thing we know for sure is that we don’t know for sure. Every time we get our feet set, a new order comes out.”

Stewart said she expects her team will “put the finishing touches on the plan” on Tuesday.

The plan will include the items the board wants to see — the school calendar to apply as previously approved, the schedules of classes to follow patterns established in the past, no major changes to transportation… things like that. It will also include some flexible language.

“Both of these orders play a role,” she said. “We are going to add some language so it’s fluid … ‘We will be following the latest order.'”

“It will definitely impact how we look at masking,” Stewart said. “It’s no longer an option.”

That does not fit well with the community’s preferences.

When the district brought together stakeholders to provide information for the consideration of the board, “The focus groups were not incredibly supportive of masking,” she said.

The administration will present a reopening plan that accommodates the latest requirements.

“We will be doing as the governor directs us,” Stewart said.

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