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Students return to Tidioute Community Charter School

Screen capture from Warren County School District video Warren County School District Superintendent Amy Stewart talks about mask mandates and recommendations on the latest district video posted at www.wcsdpa.org.

School was back in session Wednesday at one Warren County school.

Tidioute Community Charter School opened its doors to 305 students – in-person – and another 60 or so staff and contractors. Those students came from Warren County, Forest Area, Titusville, and Crawford Central school district attendance areas.

“Students returned to K4 to grade 12 classes at TCCS today,” CEO Doug Allen said Wednesday. “TCCS has that ‘normal’ feel to it.”

“We were thrilled to greet students this morning and the day was very productive and positive,” Student Services Coordinator Melissa Mahaney said.

The many changes that were in place for the 2020-2021 school year are mostly gone.

“Students are returned to classrooms that are typical rooms for them at TCCS,” Allen said. “Last year a second grade was in our band room, for example.”

“We are spacing at the 3-foot rule and monitoring all COVID safety precautions – such as daily hand washing and cleaning thoroughly all areas during the day,” he said. “Our 47 employees and 17 contracted agency employees all have received COVID safety training. Athletics is returned as well.”

MASKS

Due to a federal transportation mandate, “masks are required on vans and buses,” Allen said. “We do let parents or guardians decide if a student wears a mask (in school) or not.”

That subject is a hot one in many areas.

The return to school plan for Warren County School District does not require masks in school.

“The board encourages and recommends the wearing of a mask by all persons while inside a school building, regardless of vaccination status,” according to the district’s plan. “However, the board is not mandating this at this time.”

“If Warren County is determined to be at high risk of COVID-19 transmission, the superintendent will analyze the transmission rates and positive cases within the schools and community, share the information with the board, and the board may hold meeting for the purpose of deciding whether masks will be required at that time,” the plan said. “The board, at a later date and regardless of the transmission rate in the county, may also hold a meeting and require that masks be worn in a particular building if an outbreak is identified within that particular building.”

Superintendent Amy Stewart talked about the mask situation, as well as attendance options, in the most recent of her videos posted on the www.wcsdpa.org website.

There is an online petition with over 200 signatures – reportedly only parents and guardians of district students – asking the board and superintendent to stick to the plan.

“We respectfully request that you please maintain a mask-optional policy for Warren County School District for the 2021/2022 school year,” according to the narrative attached to the petition at change.org. “We would like our superintendent… and all board members to recognize that a large number of WCSD parents/guardians support their decision as stated – ‘parents and staff will have a choice to wear a face covering at school… Masks are recommended, but not mandated at school.’ We wish for it to remain unchanged.”

Schools may not have options.

On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that Gov. Tom Wolf is asking the legislature for a statewide mask requirement in classrooms.

Wolf asked the leaders of the Senate and House to call members back immediately to get to work on a bill requiring masks in schools and child care facilities.

“Concerned parents, pediatricians, teachers and others have been urging state officials for such a mandate,” Wolf said.

Warren County School District is among the overwhelming majority (415 out of 474) in the state that did not mandate masks in their return-to-school plans.

“It is clear that action is needed to ensure children are safe as they return to school,” Wolf said. He said he has “become increasingly concerned about misinformation being spread to try to discredit a school district’s clear ability to implement masking” as well as “local control being usurped by the threat — implicit or explicit — of political consequences for making sound public health and education decisions.”

“My administration will continue to monitor the situation, communicate and work with the General Assembly and take actions as needed to keep our children safe, and in the classroom,” Wolf said.

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