Parents divided as local school boards discuss mask mandates

PETERS TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Peters Township parent Rebecca Valdiserri sent Channel 11 cellphone video from outside the school board meeting Monday night showing around 80 parents who showed up for the vote on mandating masks.

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“We were locked out and asked if we could get a change of venue and it was too late and there was an admin who locked the door behind her each time she went in,” explained Valdiserri.

District officials said that they allowed every parent who wanted to speak the chance to do so, but there was only room for 24 parents to sit in. Parent Marty Sloan was one of them.

“Now that I have gone back and looked at things the sunshine act, the fact that these meetings need to be open to the public I think they have a responsibility to provide reasonable accommodations to all people are going to show up,” Sloan said.

“I know people were frustrated they couldn’t come in, unfortunately with the district being a little bit under construction moving our venue and still being able to record it and provide that to the community wasn’t possible,” explained Communications Coordinator for the Peters Township School District, Shelley Belcher.

The board voted to require masks. District officials say the decision was made after the health department announced on Friday kids exposed to COVID-19 while wearing a mask will not have to quarantine.

“Yes you’re even if you were wearing a mask if you were close contact you were excluded from school. We want our kids in the classroom, we want them participate in all their events and extracurriculars and this is the way we can make that happen,” explained Belcher.

Last night, neighboring school district Bethel Park’s school board voted for “masks optional.” The meeting moved to an auditorium to accommodate parents, with parents on both sides speaking out.

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Upper St. Clair’s school board is voting Wednesday. In neighboring districts like Mount Lebanon and South Fayette, masks are required, while in South Park and Canon Mac, they remain optional.

Meanwhile, a student at Peters Township created a petition to allow student choice, with 1,675 signatures collected in less than 24 hours. But district leaders say they strongly believe the masks worked and kept them in school five days a week last year.

“I heard the board say the other night we only had one case of in school transmission last year, I mean masks really works for us,” explained Belcher.

Regardless of your school district decision on wearing masks indoors, all students will be required to wear masks on school buses and school transportation per the order by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.