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North Allegheny school officials ordered to reinstate universal masking

ALLEGHENY COUNTY, Pa. — A federal judge has ruled that universal masking must remain in place, for now, in the North Allegheny School District.It’s a temporary victory for the parents of four students with physical challenges who are at high risk of getting seriously ill or dying from COVID.

“The parents, some of them were crying. It was a very emotional moment for them,” said their attorney, Ken Behrend.

Behrend and these families took on the district’s school board in federal court after the board voted in December to make masking optional. The decision is set to take effect this week.

“The majority of parents attending the (school board) meetings want masking, so I just can’t understand why the school board isn’t listening,” said Brittney Feicht, the mother of a third grader in the North Allegheny School District.

She is not involved in the lawsuit, but is relieved by the judge’s action.

“We just want our kids to be safe and until these numbers go down. I think we need to do everything in our power to keep kids healthy and to keep kids in school,” she said.

The judge’s ruling will remain in place for two to three weeks until a preliminary injunction hearing, where medical experts, and possibly the parents involved in this case, are expected to testify.

The school board and school district declined to comment on the legal matter.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh Adalja says masks are one tool schools have at their disposal to keep kids in the classroom, but ultimately, they will have to start treating COVID like other respiratory illnesses.

“Once you have a high level of vaccination, once you have protocols in place to deal with cases, once you’ve implemented the CDC test to stay, I think masks, especially in vaccinated children, are going to take on less importance,” said Adalja.