Bradford Area School Board heard from a number of audience members during Monday’s regular meeting, some speaking out against the masks and others supporting the current state-issued mandate requiring masks in schools.
Most of the visitors speaking out against the masks noted they recognize that the board members have a tough job and receive “the heat” for a mandate issued by Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of Health.
Bradford City resident Edward O’Dell, who stated he was a taxpayer and also a parent to a daughter who attends school in the district, gave paperwork to the school board and stated that was their “out” if it was a concern that the board would be sued for anyone contracting coronavirus.
The paperwork was said to be from Attorney Eric Winter, who is based in Philadelphia.
Harold Skaggs spoke to the board, discussing concerns about wearing masks and discussing a mask he wears for work purposes that has cartridges with a four-hour saturation rate, noting that paper masks are not rated for saturation. Also, he shared concerns about fibers entering the wearer’s lungs, which could cause multiple other illnesses. Skaggs was referring specifically to Byssinosis, which is “a respiratory disorder caused by inhalation of an endotoxin produced by bacteria in the fibres of cotton” according to medical encyclopedias and is common among cotton workers, who suffered continual, years-long exposure to cotton dust.
Jim Tingley, a Bradford resident who has three grandchildren in other school districts in Pa., stated, “A very wise man once told me that anything that brings peace, harmony and unity is from God. Anything that brings division, disharmony and unrest is from Satan. So I would say to all of you sitting there, when deciding to follow the Marxist regime in Harrisburg, who are using a 1955 law to physically and emotionally harm our children, understand who you are choosing to follow. Thank you.”
Tingley’s comments were followed by cheers and applause from the audience.
Bill Moore, a Foster Township resident, took a different perspective on the topic of masks and coronavirus.
“I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for all you’ve done; your staff, all of the people working in the school buildings and bus drivers,” Moore said. “I know you take a lot of heat. I don’t think we are going to beat this thing without wearing masks. As long as we have the 25 to 30% that refuse to get vaccinated, we are going to have COVID with us until that gets taken care of. Until we do, we are going to have to live with masks. I thank you, I know a lot of others in the community do likewise. I thought I would take a minute and come here and do that.”
When asked by Matt Schwab, a Bradford Township resident, if any of the school board members were going to entertain optional masking, President Shane Oschman stated,
“We are going to continue to look at the situation, but it is completely out of our hands. Comments from Senator Dush and Governor Wolf, among others, make it clear we are required to follow this mandate. We truly appreciate people’s opinions, but it is our understanding as a school board, we are required to follow that mask mandate.
“We continue to hope things will change in future, and if things continue to improve and there are changes in McKean County, we hope there will continue to be different people within the state and community to bring about change and the right decision at the time.”
Schwab followed up with a query of whether board members were reaching out for alternatives, contacting local representatives or the governor.
Board Member Butch Bartlett commented, “I know most people here know where I stand. I am pro-choice. I have talked to Representative Causer, and he’s not happy about it. I won’t get into a discussion about whether the mandate is legal or not. That is not for me to decide and not for the board to decide. That will be decided down the road. I have looked at many options to give parents and children a choice, and I can’t find one.”
Other visitors who spoke on other issues included Gary Larson, a bus driver for the School District, who asked about the possibility of getting aides for busses. He stated he has concerns about driving safely without an aide, as he is not able to pay attention to the back of the bus when kids are misbehaving.
Also, Larson requested name badges for the bus drivers, as he takes students on trips for games or events and it would be beneficial to have some way to be identified beyond the key to the bus.
Superintendent Katy Pude said she would work on getting lanyards for the drivers to help with that issue.
Jennifer Taylor asked about the possibility of live-streaming meetings, which School Board President Shane Oschman noted would be a possibility.