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Ohio County Board of Education Shifts Course on Quarantine Policy

Photo by Joselyn King - Masked attendees await the start of Monday’s Ohio County Board of Education meeting.

WHEELING — Students in Ohio County Schools must continue to wear masks, but board of Education members Monday night did repeal the changes in the school district’s COVID quarantine policy they approved just last month.

The moves came after three parents and one of their daughters addressed the board about their children having severe problems resulting from mask wearing at school.

They are having extreme breathing issues and headaches, and are now taking anxiety medication, all three parents said.

Members of the Ohio County Principals Association, meanwhile, said the mask mandates have been beneficial to keeping students in the classrooms, and they asked the board to continue the mask mandates.

In the end, board members chose not to address the district’s mask mandate at Monday’s meeting and will let it remain in place until consulting further with medical professionals and other experts.

Members also voted 3-2 to reverse course and reject their own quarantine protocols approved Nov. 8.

These protocols permitted masked students exposed to the virus to remain in the classroom as long as they show no symptoms.

The school district will now follow the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and recommended by the West Virginia Department of Education.

These rules require that when a student — masked or unmasked — is exposed to COVID through a student who isn’t masked, both students must quarantine at home for 10 days whether or not they exhibit symptoms.

Member Grace Norton changed her vote from last month and sided with members Christine Carder and Pete Chacalos in voting yes to repeal the new protocols, while board president David Croft and member Molly Aderholt voted no. Both attorneys, Croft and Aderholt worked together to craft the protocols that were repealed Monday night.

The school district currently has 46 students in quarantine, according to Superintendent Kim Miller. She suggested to the board students and staff continue to wear masks in school buildings and on buses at least through the holiday season.

But Carder indicated her concerns were instead with the school district’s quarantine policy approved Nov. 8.

“I would like to move that we rescind it for a while so we can review it and get some input from our nurses, and the people who are working with it, so that everybody understands it and what to do with some of the questions that have arisen.” she told board members.

Carder said since students in Ohio County Schools are mandated to wear masks, there shouldn’t be that many quarantines.

Aderholt said more parents she spoke with were concerned with the CDC and state quarantine procedures than with mandating students to wear masks.

“We need kids in school,” she said. “They don’t need to be home healthy. … It’s bad policy to send these kids home when they aren’t sick and very unlikely to become sick.”

There is also a need to protect teachers and keep them healthy, both Carder and Norton said. Presently there is a shortage of substitute teachers, and in some cases, remaining teachers in a school have had to take over the classroom of a teacher with COVID who will be gone for at least 12 days.

“We’re not going to have enough people to cover,” Carder said.

Chacalos said “nobody on this board is an expert” when it comes to COVID.

“I don’t see why we don’t listen to what the CDC is telling us,” he said. “Seems we want to listen to the CDC in one respect that supports our view, but we don’t want to listen to the CDC on something that doesn’t support our view.”

Croft only said he believed repealing the protocols “was a step in the wrong direction” by the board.

Gabriella Shaffer told the board her daughter has had breathing problems and chest issues while at school this year. The daughter is now taking anti-anxiety medication.

“This is not OK,” Shaffer said.

Parent Jessica Powers said she had a child also with breathing issues who was now on anxiety medication. She suggested the child had missed more school this year “while wearing a mask than without.”

Michelle Schulte Myers said she was a healthcare professional, and she questioned how efficient the common cotton mask was in combating COVID.

Jim Rowing, assistant principal at the Warwood School, represented the Ohio County Principals Association.

“We’re in such a better place now,” Rowing told the board. “They have adult eyes on them to make sure they’re OK. They’re getting socialization from their parents, two meals a day and consistency in getting their education. We want to be able to continue this and not go back.”

In unrelated matters, the board approved the retirements of some long-time employees well-known in the community.

Wheeling Park High School Assistant Principal/Athletic Director Dwaine Rodgers is retiring effective June 30 following 36 years with the school.

Joining him in retirement will be his wife, Rhea Rodgers, a guidance counselor at the Warwood School who has been employed by the school district for 35 years.

In addition, Jane Davis, executive secretary to the superintendent, also will retire effective June 30 following a 40-year career with Ohio County Schools.

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