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Face masks keep students from having to quarantine

Mandate or not, a properly-worn mask provides students a level of protection from quarantine.

For one week, masks were not required in schools.

Last week, Warren County School District students, staff, and others in the buildings were required by the state to wear masks.

Even during the mandate, not every student had to wear a mask. There were exceptions.

The district had 80 individual cases of requests for mask exemptions, according to Superintendent Amy Stewart. Some of those had been finalized and included in the student’s education plans. Others were in the works.

That exemption process was expedited following Monday’s school board meeting.

The rules continue to change.

One thing about masks hasn’t changed — students who wear them properly are less likely to be quarantined when exposed to someone who has COVID-19.

As of Monday, 349 district students had been quarantined – denied entry to school — following close contacts with COVID cases.

The district has a table for determining what happens in cases of close contact. Masks and vaccines make it less likely that a student will have to quarantine.

The person who is positive must isolate and is not permitted back in school for at least 10 days in all cases.

Unvaccinated people who are close contacts will be denied entry to the schools with one exception — if both the positive case and the contact were students who were properly wearing masks at the time of the contact no action is required.

Similarly, in cases where a vaccinated student is the close contact, if both parties were students who were properly wearing masks, no action is required.

Those exceptions do not apply to adults, according to Stewart.

For vaccinated contacts in cases where at least one person is not wearing a mask, the contact will be allowed to enter the buildings, but must wear a mask for 14 days or until their test result — which must be initiated two to five days after contact — comes back negative.

Any time a person is denied entry due to being a close contact, the district will make a report to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

On Monday, the school board approved a motion that allows parents (and students who are at least 18) to sign waivers indicating a student has a medical or mental disability that means they should not wear masks in school.

The district has posted a downloadable copy of the exemption request form at www.wcsdpa.org.

The motion, as it was written and approved, does not meet the approval of the department.

“It is recommended that any exception be in accordance with eligibility under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act or IDEA for such medical or mental health condition or disability and school entities should follow their established processes for determining student eligibility under those laws, including any medical documentation that they would normally require,” according to a statement from the department’s press office. “This documentation may include a form from a qualified practitioner with a treatment relationship with the student. Any school entity simply permitting a parent’s sign-off without evidence that the student has a medical or mental health condition or disability that precludes the wearing of a face covering is not in compliance with the order.”

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