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Ohio County Board of Education Watching Mask Bill Closely

Photo by Joselyn King - Ohio County Schools Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones briefs school board members on bond construction projects during Monday’s board meeting.

Ohio County Board of Education member Molly Aderholt hopes state lawmakers do take a stand and ban mask mandates in West Virginia schools.

The West Virginia Legislature is currently considering House Bill 4071, the “Parent and Student Health Rights Act.” The bill seeks to end mask requirements and restrict COVID-19 testing requirements and quarantines in West Virginia schools.

The measure is currently before the House Judiciary Committee.

Board member Grace Norton, who participated in Monday’s meeting by phone, told board members the legislation is something on which they should keep a watchful eye.

Aderholt said Monday she’d like to see the Legislature act sooner than later, and end the mandates.

“I hope we can reach a point in the very near future where our kids aren’t forced to wear them (masks) and worry about the harms that may be occuring,” Aderholt said. “I am hoping the Legislature does it. If not, we’ll be back here talking about it.”

Board president David Croft noted that talk about mask mandates is a “never-ending discussion.” He said the board is watching the bill, as the legislature may take the burden of determining mask mandates out of the hands of county boards of education.

He reported the number of reported COVID cases in Ohio County has been steadily dropping during the past week.

“We’re hoping that trend continues,” Croft said. “It seems to be staying consistent over the past few days.

“It is good to see that statistically there are less people suffering — more people are getting it, but they seem to be suffering less.”

Monday’s board meeting had been scheduled to take place at Wheeling Park High School, giving board members the opportunity to tour completed renovations in the facility. But, late last week, the meeting was moved back to the board office in Elm Grove.

“The fire marshal just didn’t feel comfortable letting us do tours with the public until he signed off on everything,” Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones said. “There are just a few things that need to be done before he can do that.”

Croft asked if rescheduling the board’s Feb. 14 meeting for WPHS would be possible, but Jones said he believed later in the month would be better. The Feb. 14 meeting will take place at 6 p.m. at the board office, 2203 National Road, Elm Grove.

The board now is planning to host its Feb. 28 meeting at WPHS. Tours would begin at 4:30 p.m., followed by the regular board meeting at 6 p.m.

Croft said he and Aderholt have been working with the Wheeling Park Commission to achieve a property use agreement, and they expect to bring that agreement before the board of education soon. The property on which much of the new athletic field at WPHS sits belongs to the Wheeling Park Commission.

“This will solidify the relationship we have with Oglebay pertaining to the space we use for the foreseeable future,” he told the board.

Croft said the Wheeling Park Commission “has been generous thus far,” and that both parties want to achieve a deal in the best interest of everyone.


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