Beginning September 9, all Hancock County students, employees and visitors will be required to wear face coverings inside school buildings and on school transportation. The Hancock County School voted to implement the mask mandate at an emergency meeting September 8 after an alarming number of COVID positive cases as well as students being quarantined was reported after only 15 days of school. The mandate will stay in place until September 30. The Board will meet again September 27 and will determine at that time if the face covering mandate will stay in place. The motion to require the face coverings passed by a 4-1 vote with Board member Chris Gillette voting against the mandate.
Hancock County was one of only 13 counties in West Virginia that left wearing of face coverings up to the parent or student. It now becomes the 43rd county out of 55 counties in the State to put the preventative measure in place.
Superintendent Dawn Petrovich reported that currently 65 students had tested positive as of Sept. 8, however an additional 551 students were in quarantined due to exposure to those testing positive. With the face covering rule in place, students who were near those testing positive will not be required to quarantine.
Petrovich stressed that mandating masks was the last thing she wanted to do, but keeping students in school is necessary. She noted that when schools went to virtual learning last year both students and their education suffered.
Board President Dan Kaser said he had spent the day talking with school nurses and the health department and they all were in favor of the face covering mandate. He also said he had thanked every nurse for all they were doing to test and vaccinate students.
Director of School Nurses Kathy Dray said that school nurses are available to test and provide vaccinations for any student or employee and she felt the mask mandate was necessary.
“We can’t turn a blind eye,” said Dray who said if the mask mandate prevents one student from being on a ventilator it is worth it.
“We have a responsibility to students and school employees,” said Kaser. “We (the Board) are all elected officials and a non-partisan Board. We have to do what best.”