CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) – State College Area School District’s new mask mandate has left many parents split on the recent policy change.
While some say it’s not practical, others can’t help but breath a sigh of relief, like mom of 3, Katelyn Espenshade.
“Having those children wear a mask could be lifesaving for a child like mine with Type 1 Diabetes,” said Espenshade.
Higher risk, Espenshade says before the mandate, she and her husband knew that they had a big decision to make. On one end they didn’t know if it would be safe to send their daughter back to the classroom, especially with the new variant. But on the other, they had one little eager girl on their hands who couldn’t wait to go back to school.
“It’s been really, really difficult on her emotional health. She was a remote student last year and she was remote for the second half of her kindergarten experience, and even though we did a lot outside of the classroom, she really was missing just being around her peers and being in the classroom setting,” said Espenshade.
But now with the new masking indoors requirement, Espenshade says they’re able to have peace of mind knowing that she’ll have an extra layer of protection.
“I took think that teaching our children to care about the safety of each other is a beautiful message. Even if it’s not something that’s easy,” said Espenshade.
Another parent, Stephen Williamson believes masks should be optional, but says the one good thing about the mandate, is that the same rule will now apply for everyone.
“Our biggest problem is that they are identifying kids as vaccinated or unvaccinated. It’s a very discriminatory practice,” said Williamson.
This he says creates a different climate within the same classroom.
“I’ve seen teachers let vaccinated kids get right up to there desk, whether they have a mask on or off. But they then have unvaccinated kids keep away, like 6 ft. plus, that’s not equitable,” said Williamson.
Williamson says he fears that if and when mitigation protocols relax, this type of climate will return.
“I have no faith that it won’t…there was room to make accommodations for whatever students needed but the district wasn’t willing to do that with mask options. They weren’t willing to get creative,” said Williamson.
Despite him bringing them many ideas on how to be. Now, Williamson says a big question he and other parents have on their minds are mask breaks.
“The district has released these Q&A’s about the policy, but you’ll notice it doesn’t address masking breaks. So are they really expecting kids to wear them 3 to 4 hours up to lunch and then 3 to 4 hours after lunch? That’s the concern the district knows a lot of parents have. So for the district to not even address that, are they even listening?” questioned Williamson.
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