A heated debate erupted in Bucks County, PA over COVID-19 school safety protocols
The Central Bucks School District must submit its plans to the PA Department of Education by July 31.
The Central Bucks School District in Bucks County, PA recently announced it does not intend to require face masks or conduct contact tracing for students coming back in the Fall, and some community members are concerned.
After the district released its plans, many medical professionals and parents were prompted to organize a press conference on July 27 to plead with officials to develop a more firm COVID-19 safety plan.
The press conference brought out a crowd with differing opinions on COVID-19 guidelines, including some who opposed the mask mandate.
“We are here to say that every student deserves the opportunity to learn in person,” said Dr. Mariam Mahmoud, a pediatric physician and Bucks County resident who helped organize the press conference. “Trust the pediatric guidance provided during this pandemic.”
As first reported by WHYY, the crowd drew about 60 community members and tensions rose over what should be deemed safe enough for students going back to school.
The district released a draft of its COVID-19 safety plan to the public on July 20, and allowed for community input until July 26. The school board officially approved the plan on July 27 in a 5-3 vote.
The district will need to submit the final plan to the Pennsylvania Department of Education by July 31, 2021.
This comes after the Center for Disease Control announced on Tuesday, July 27, its reversal on indoor masks due to the spread of the Delta variant. It now recommends all students and teachers wear masks in schools — even if they are vaccinated.
Cases are also on the rise in Pennsylvania and Bucks County, which reported an average of 32 new COVID cases per day last week, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the CDC.
“The cases are an increase of 10 cases per day over the previous week, and more than triple the rate of early July, when daily cases numbered in single digits,” the Bucks County Commissioners Office said.
In addition to the press conference advocating for stricter COVID-19 safety plans, over 100 medical professionals in Bucks County also signed a petition against the district’s current school safety plans, which they say goes against current recommendations set by the CDC.
Along with the rise in cases, children under 12 are still not eligible for the vaccine, further increasing many community members concerns for their children returning to in-person learning in the Fall.
Heidi Hornick, a parent in the district, is one of them, and she spoke to WHYY about the importance of masks and the need to keep students safe.
“I think with the numbers going up and we’re not really sure what’s going on, why not play it safe until we have the answers?” said Hornick.
Many medical professionals and community members continue to advocate for more rigorous COVID-19 safety plans, but Hornick is still worried about her daughter returning to school and wants the district to take responsibility.
“Let’s say there’s one student who happened to be at the school and got very sick and was on a ventilator and died,” said Hornick. “Who’s responsible for that?”