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Mixed feelings on mask mandates in schools among parents in Luzerne County

As of now, whether students are required to wear masks in schools in Luzerne County will depend not only on the school district but on what grade they're in as well.

DALLAS, Pa. — UPDATE: The mask debate is heating up in Pennsylvania, and now the governor is getting involved.

Right now, school districts in the state can make the choice on their own mask policies, but Governor Tom Wolf wants that to change.

In Luzerne County, officials in the Dallas School district are now requiring masks inside school buildings.

That announcement came Wednesday night.

Students, staff and visitors here in the Back Mountain have to mask up, and masks are required on school buses as well.

"I think everyone should wear a mask, no matter what, vaccinated or not, you still have to wear one. COVID ain't going nowhere and it's not going nowhere for a while," said Kimberly Hickok.

Wolf is asking state lawmakers to work on a bill that would require masks in all school districts in Pennsylvania.

The announcement from the Dallas School District:

In an effort to maximize our ability to remain having all students on campus every day, all students, staff, and visitors are required to wear masks when inside the district’s buildings and while receiving district transportation. Aligned with previous masking guidance, the following are exceptions to the face-covering requirement:

  • Individuals who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition, including those with respiratory issues that impede breathing, mental health condition, or disability
  • Individuals who would be unable to remove a mask without assistance
  • Individuals who are communicating or seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing-impaired or has another disability, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication

For more on that mandate at Dallas and the exemptions, click here.

Original story:

Abby Shoemaker is a student in the Dallas School District. As of now, masks are recommended but not required there. 

But with an immunocompromised family member at home:

"I'm probably going to wear one because if my brother gets sick, he has to go to the hospital," said Abby.

Cathy Shoemaker says she's happy that the kids might not have to wear masks if that's what their parents decide.

"I can't imagine having to be there for 8 hours and wear a mask. "I think it should be up to the parents whether their child has to or not."

Gina Myers from Larksville agrees. So she's not happy her granddaughter, who goes to school in the Wyoming Valley West School District, will be required to wear a mask.

"I think the kids need to breathe, especially kids with asthma like my granddaughter."

At Wyoming Valley West, masks are only required in buildings with children under the age of 12, since they can't get the vaccine. 

Kimberly Hickok, who has a 5-year-old headed to school there, believes a mask mandate should be in place for students of all ages.

"I think everyone should wear a mask, no matter what, vaccinated or not, you still have to wear one. COVID isn't going anywhere."

Governor Wolf is now calling on lawmakers to put together a bill that would require masks in all schools statewide. But as of now, the decision is left up to the individual school districts.