Controversy erupts after Council Rock School District decides to make masks optional

Beccah Hendrickson Image
Monday, June 7, 2021
Controversy erupts after school district makes masks optional
A decision to make mask-wearing optional is causing controversy in a Bucks County school district.

NEWTOWN TWP., Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- A decision to make mask-wearing optional is causing controversy in a Bucks County school district.

The Council Rock school board voted 7-1 Thursday night to lift the mandatory mask mandate in its schools, affecting more than 11,000 students and their families immediately.

"Texts were going out at 10:15 at night to parents for things that were starting the very next day, and I don't think that's a good process," said Denise Brooks, who was the only school board member to vote no on the measure.

"Parents made decisions to send their kids to school because of the mask order," she said.

RELATED: Another COVID-19 side effect: Many kids head to summer school

School Board President Ed Salamon said in a statement the "vote to make masks optional was done in reliance on the opinions and recommendations publicly expressed by the Director of the Bucks County Health Department and following consultation with our Solicitor."

"These buildings are full of unvaccinated children. They need to be masked," said Michael Howes, who has three children in the district.

He started a petition with nearly 500 signatures against the vote.

He's also keeping his kids virtual. He doesn't feel they are safe in school.

With COVID-19 restrictions easing, many people are coming out of pandemic isolation.

"Nobody under the age of 12 can even be vaccinated and nobody under the age of 16 can possibly have a full immune response - even if they got it the first day - until June 16th," he said.

Others, however, say this is the day they've been waiting for.

"Especially because it's getting so hot outside, I just think it's easier to learn instead of having to be stuck in the building for seven hours straight wearing a mask," said Emily Ungaro, a senior at Council Rock North High School.

"It's nice to be able to talk to my friends and not wear a mask, especially during gym class where we'd be walking around the track or gym in 95 degree weather and we'd still have to wear a mask," said Michele Connors, another senior.

The school board's decision does go against the most recent Pennsylvania guidance for schools, which includes mandatory masking.