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Tamaqua Area School District defies state's mandatory mask order

State Health Department says students, staff must be masked in school.

TAMAQUA, Pa. — The state is firing back at one school district in Schuylkill County for not following the state's mask mandate.

The Tamaqua Area School District says wearing masks will be optional, despite the state's mandate that all students and staff wear masks while in school.

The mandate went into effect this week.

The grounds here at the Tamaqua Area School District were packed with student athletes participating in some after-school practice.

And while these students aren't wearing masks as they are outside; it's when they go inside the school a mask is now mandatory.

The state's Department of Health says masks must be worn by students and staff at all times while in schools.

“They put in on the school website that it was optional but you had to wear them on buses and stuff,” said eighth-grader Grayce Kobalchick.

The Department of Health's decision to make masks mandatory for students and staff took effect this week on Tuesday, September 7th.

In response, the Tamaqua Area School Board voted during a special meeting last Thursday to make wearing a mask optional.

The board said at the meeting the decision was in the best interest of students in the district.

Senior Alec Humes says one of the biggest perks of getting vaccinated is not having to mask up.

“I kind of like not wearing one. It's kind of giving me a sense of freedom and the sense that everything is kind of going back to normal,” said Humes.

The Department of Health sent a letter to the Tamaqua Area School District warning the district that by not complying it is leaving itself open to lawsuits.

We did reach out to Tamaqua Area school officials. The superintendent tells Newswatch 16 the district has no comment at this time.

“It's very controversial. I mean, I wear it when I have to, if I don't have to, I'm not going to. They're making them wear it on the buses,” said Lee Calkins, who was at the school to pick up his grandson.

The State Health Department did not mention if it would be imposing any penalties after Tamaqua Area.

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