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Education| Education

Carlisle Area School District will make mask optional after it has gained confidence that its COVID-19 cases have fallen and leveled off.

Patricia Sanker, acting superintendent, told school board members that she didn’t have a date yet. We will just have to wait and see what happens. Maybe we’ve reached our peak. I’m hoping that this is what I want.

Students and staff have reported an increase in cases since August. According to Eric Sands, the director of operations who coordinates the district pandemic response, this number has doubled in less that a month, from 400 cases on January 4 to 800 on Jan 28.

According to statistics, the daily count for new cases peaked around Jan. 10, Sands stated. It is starting to fall back. There has been a marked decrease in cases this week compared with previous weeks. It is a positive sign we are moving in a positive direction.

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Sanker agreed, but kept the news in perspective with cautious optimism. The mask mandate should be lifted only if there is a continuing downward trend for at least a few more weeks.

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Sanker stated that if the case count increases, it will be very difficult for people to take off their masks. Before we make the decision not to make mask optional, I want certain things to be done. We need to talk with our building principals and assistant principals. We also need to invite staff members to the meetings to explain what to expect.

Conversations could begin as soon as the week of February 7. Paula Bussard, board president, said that some kind of announcement could be made at the February 14th board meeting.

Mechanicsburg Area school district announced this week that it will be transitioning to a mask-optional environment starting February 14.

Sanker said that when it happens, it will happen quickly. Teachers will know what to expect, and we would have communicated that information with parents.

The district has ordered N95 and KN95 masks. It plans to make them available to teachers. Sanker stated that there are better masks than those we have been using. Sanker said that most teachers will want to use a good mask, even if students choose not to wear one.

Sanker believes that most people will continue to wear a mask until they feel confident that transmission is lessened.

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We also ordered additional masks to fit the children. Sanker stated that they have ordered more masks to fit children. There are some children in the buildings who are medically fragile. These children must be taken into consideration. They are not eligible for the program. [COVID vaccination]Their medical conditions may require shots. We want to make sure that children who get infected are provided with masks.

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Sanker stated that there may be children who have not been vaccinated, or who may have COVID cases. They may be interested in wearing a mask for a time. These masks are available at the nurses office as well as the regular office. They will only need to come get them.

Please bear with us. Sanker explained that it is a process and addressed the district families.

Bussard stated that the plan is to launch a mask optional districtwide when it happens. It’s not building by building. We have families with multiple children in multiple buildings. Families would be in chaos if they tried to build one building after another.

Bussard said that half the students in district school live in families where the family income is below the poverty level. They would benefit from better quality masks.

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Email Joseph Cress at jcress@cumberlink.com.

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