Last week, I sent letters to all school board members and superintendents from school districts throughout the 44th District urging districts to protect the health of their students, staff, and community by requiring masks upon returning to in-person instruction this school year. We are still fighting a global pandemic, one that is evolving and worsening with each passing day.
Parents from throughout our district and across the Commonwealth have contacted our office supporting our efforts to make classrooms safe. They have serious concerns about the health of their children and for good reason – pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations are higher this month than any other throughout the entire pandemic. This is a frightening, contagious and potentially deadly virus that needs to be taken seriously.
Seven of the school districts in SD44 – Downingtown Area, Phoenixville Area, Perkiomen Valley, Norristown Area, Methacton, Coatesville Area and Owen J. Roberts – have stepped up to the plate and prioritized public health and mitigation efforts by implementing a masking requirement as part of their health and safety plan. I appreciate their leadership and sincerely thank these districts for taking the right steps to protect their students, staff and our local communities.
My message to the school board members and superintendents at the other school districts in SD44 that have not yet taken the appropriate action is this – you each have the legal and moral obligation to protect your students and your staff. Wearing a mask is a safe and effective way to protect against COVID-19. I encourage all of our school districts to mandate masks, regular testing for staff and students, and other lifesaving COVID mitigation measures to better ensure a safe, uninterrupted school year for our students.
To successfully lead in any situation, and certainly times of intense turbulence and increased risk of harm, leaders in all levels of decision making must lead with courage and an evidence-based plan. We need the leaders of our local school districts to use the local control that they asked for and the governing authority they possess as public officials to protect our students, staff and our greater communities. Nothing about a deadly pandemic should be partisan. The COVID-19 virus spreads and harms people of all ages, genders, and political affiliations. Wearing masks is not a political statement, it is a statement of personal responsibility and care – care for yourself, care for each other and care for the health of our community.