Students with masks

ST. MARYS — St. Marys Area School District administrators, board members and student representatives responded to and addressed the controversial mask mandate topic in front of a group of Elk County peaceful protestors during Monday evening’s meeting.

Newly-elected Board President Stacy McKee said the ultimate goal is to continue safe, in-person instruction for students.

“We appreciate the views shared this evening, and consideration will be taken as we move forward,” she said.

McKee noted she was impressed by St. Marys Area High School sophomore Anthony Nedzinski’s speech on his position with the masking order.

Superintendent Dr. Harley Ramsey said he found Monday’s speakers to be prepared and civil.

“The rally prior to the board meeting was peaceful and well organized,” he said. “I genuinely appreciate the group’s willingness to pursue substantive change in an appropriate manner.”

Ramsey said he enjoyed hearing the balance that was represented throughout the meeting.

“Student voices were represented on both sides of the masking issue as well,” he said. “As a school administrator, I am extremely proud of how our students represented themselves, their families, and their community this evening.”

Student representative Emma Gavazzi, along with Nedzinski, also presented on the masking issue.

“Both (of them) presented artfully-crafted arguments on opposite sides of the masking issue. They handled themselves with confidence and grace,” Ramsey said.

Recommended Video

It is not lost on him that this is an “emotional issue” for families, said Ramsey.

“The district is faced with extremely difficult decisions each and every day. This issue is no different. We will take the public comments made this evening into consideration as we move forward. Our focus has been, and will continue to be, safe in-person learning for all students,” he said.

Board member Lewis Murray spoke on the subject for around five minutes, beginning with the fact that many people don’t want to wear a mask.

“There is a difference between the words ‘reduce’ and ‘guarantee,’” he said. “We cannot guarantee anyone’s complete safety. However, by following a few simple guidelines, we can reasonably help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases.”

Murray reviewed several medical studies and research statistics concerning COVID-19 and its spread.

People may think since children have healthier immune systems and are less likely to have symptoms severely as others, that bothering with a mask isn’t necessary, Murray went on to say, quoting the Mayo Clinic and American Academy of Pediatrics. COVID-19 deaths are rare among children, he said.

However, a student infected with COVID-19 could take the virus home, potentially infecting an aunt or uncle or grandparent, said Murray, or someone who is immunocompromised.

“If wearing some fabric on our faces is the cost of preventing one death, count me in. Cases are on the rise,” he said.

Murray ended with saying he genuinely appreciates the opinions of those who don’t want to wear a mask.

“Consider this an act of kindness. If we can do this one act of kindness until the virus levels are low again, and prevent just one or a couple of deaths, we are doing the right thing,” he said.

Recommended for you

Trending Food Videos