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ICBOE members will not extend mask mandate

MINGO JUNCTION — The Indian Creek Local Board of Education has chosen not to extend its mask mandate following action at Thursday’s regular session.

A half-dozen unmasked parents and community members attended the meeting in the Indian Creek Middle School Media Center, where Superintendent T.C. Chappelear had proposed extending the mandate until Nov. 18 in an effort to continue reducing COVID infection cases and quarantines. However, some opponents vowed to sue or remove officials via state and federal codes if the board let it stand.

Resident Steve Socha said he did not have children in the schools but cited state codes to vacate an elected post for criminal law violations such as misconduct or gross neglect in office with another on public bonding to financially insure officials for faithful performance of duties, as well as a federal measure to willfully deprive a person of his or her Constitutional rights and privileges. Socha said action would be taken if the mask mandate continued.

“Either stand down or I personally assure you I’m going to (take action). The wheels of justice will be brought before you. Many of you could be in violation under the laws and statutes,” he said. “This ends tonight.”

Others in the audience questioned the board or wanted to speak even though they were not on the agenda, but they were ultimately permitted. Parents questioned why masks were warranted at afterschool and outdoor activities and opined the impact of the coverings on a child’s development. Chappelear reported that since Sept. 2, positive cases have held steady while the number of quarantines fluctuated between 20 and 50 people. He then proposed an addendum to the meeting agenda to extend the mask mandate until mid-November.

“I think the main goal has been to keep kids in school and not quarantine,” he commented. “I’ve talked to teachers and staff (and) the concern is if students are not wearing their masks or are vaccinated, they will be quarantined.”

Board member Dr. Ted Starkey added that exempted students should have been used as a control group when tracking cases. Chappelear said 10 people filed exemptions in each building while the residents claimed there were more. Responding to a query, the superintendent said he would like to see fewer than five positive cases and 10-15 quarantines overall to lift the mandate. He also suggested the residents contact or visit his office to discuss matters further.

“I certainly understand everyone’s concerns and viewpoints on this, but the question is when would be the endpoint on the recommendations,” said board member Dr. John Figel. “I think this policy was implemented in the best interest of our students. I know there’s a lot of controversy about masks but I felt it was in the best interest of the children. I’m not so sure we’ll be able to continue to function under the mandate.”

He added that people will continue to do as they wish outside of school and officials needed to decide what the endpoint would be. Following more discussion, the board voted 4-0 against extending the mandate with board member Bob Smith abstaining. Chappelear said the original policy will remain in place to only “strongly recommend” the use of masks inside the school buildings.

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