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Tamaqua Area School District defies mask order

School board members voted in a special meeting, Thursday night to continue to have masks optional saying it's in the best interest of the students.

TAMAQUA, Pa. — Students in the Tamaqua Area School District returned to school last week maskless, and come next week, that won't change.

"They made their decision based on what they felt as though was in the best interest of the students in the school," said Tamaqua Area School District Superintendent Raymond Kinder.

School board members voted in a special meeting Thursday night to continue to have masks optional for their students and staff.

The decision comes a week before the Pennsylvania Department of Health's order requiring students and staff to wear masks in school is scheduled to go into effect on September 7.

"I find that that solution there gives the people who want to wear a mask the ability to wear them and the people that don't, they don't have to wear them," said Nicholas Boyle, the vice president of the Tamaqua Area School District.

Jessica Tirpak spoke at the meeting in favor of masks being optional as well.

"I don't feel like other parents, the government, or the school board should really have a say in that. If I want to put a mask on my child, I will. But if I don't, I don't feel like it's anybody else's choice but mine, so I'm grateful to the district for letting it be up to the parents," said Tirpak.

But others like Linda Beibleheiler, whose grandson had to quarantine last year when exposed to the COVID-19, believe that masks should be worn in school.

"It should be up to the parent if the child cannot wear a mask because of having a medical problem. But I feel the masks, if anybody can wear them, they should wear them. It's better for everyone all around," said Beibleheiler.

"For the best of it, I hope that we don't have to wear them forever, but it would be best, you know to just wear them for a little while, you know, keep everybody safe," said Ralph Lucheda.

The state says school officials who fail to follow the order could leave themselves open to lawsuits or other legal action.