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Putting Children First in School

Editor, News-Register:

There has been lots of disagreement over the question of whether our students (and our staff) are at greater risk of contracting and spreading the coronavirus given the Ohio County school board’s recent decision to reject their superintendent’s recommendation for mandating masks for all. Even though most if not all of our local pediatricians and emergency medicine physicians and nurses have advocated for universal masking, and the national association of Children’s Hospitals published an open letter to all school systems asking them to please require masking, and the Ohio County health department recommended universal masking indoors, people still doubt the need for and efficacy of masks.

One thing that is not debatable, though, is the fact that universal masking keeps kids in school. The CDC-recommended quarantine protocol, which our local school systems are following, states clearly that if a student is exposed to another student who has tested positive, that student does NOT have to quarantine if both students were wearing masks at the time of exposure.

As of Sept. 2, the Ohio County Schools Covid Dashboard shows 26 confirmed positive cases. These numbers might not be a cause of alarm for some people, but the number NOT included in this dashboard should be truly alarming to all: today (Thursday), 150 students are quarantined as a result of those 26 confirmed cases.

According to the OCS quarantine policy, if the positive cases and the students that they exposed to the virus were in masks, there would be only those 26 children home, missing instruction, missing opportunities to socialize and participate in sports and clubs, and missing the structure, care and supervision that some of our children can only get in school, given their parents’ work schedules.

How can the asserted “dangers” and “inconvenience” of having to send a child in a mask be more harmful than multiple children being sent and kept home as a result of exposure?

One of the arguments against mandating masking in our community was a question of parents’ rights to choose. Well, as a parent of a child who is too young to be vaccinated, and in whose classroom about one-half of students are wearing masks, I find myself with limited choices to ensure that my child can access her right to a public education, a right guaranteed to her by the West Virginia Constitution. We send my daughter to school in a mask daily, but if she is exposed to a child who does not have a mask on — on her bus or in her classroom — my daughter will miss at least a week of school.

Do parents’ rights to decide whether or not their child has to wear a mask outweigh my child’s right to be in school, even when she is regularly wearing a mask?

I hope that our local education leaders will change their minds and approve the superintendent’s recommendation to require universal masking, as recommended by every healthcare organization in the country, but if they do not, I entreat my fellow parents to send their children to school in masks. Let’s not have a repeat of last year — I don’t know about others, but I can’t take more time off of work, see my children suffer in isolation from friends and activities, and allow my children to get any further behind in their learning.

Let’s take care of each other’s kids.

In community,

Sarah Koegler

Mom of three

Former member of the

Ohio County Board of Education

Wheeling

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