Burlington Area schools: Masks optional to start year, board says

Masks will be optional to start the year in the Burlington Area School District (BASD).

The decision was made during a special school board meeting Tuesday night, Aug. 17 after the previous week's meeting was cut short after outbursts from some parents. It prompted members to reconvene in the library and skip a vote on masks altogether.

Tuesday night's meeting carried a much different tone, partially because the school board did not include public comment on the agenda. Still, dozens attended – some held signs urging board members to make masks optional.

BASD Superintendent Steve Plank outlined the plan, noting the district cannot control what students do outside of school and that mask enforcement can be complicated. It drew debate among board members.

"The thing is that this is such...this variant spreads so easily, it's just so disturbing to me," said board member Susan Kessler.

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"We need to move forward, Susan. We have to move forward," board member Taylor Wishau said.

Still, the board is giving students, faculty and staff the choice to wear masks at the start of the year – drawing praise from parents in attendance.

"I actually appreciate that the board took the pulse of the community and followed their lead," parent Shanta Pasika said. "And as pointed out, we have very few cases in our community, so I appreciate that they're listening to what the parents are feeling from the kids."

Burlington Area School District board meeting on masking for the 2021-22 year

BASD sent a statement to FOX6 News after the meeting, saying it valued the feedback received from parents, community members, staff and more.

The board does still have the authority to require masks should local case rates increase dramatically.

The first day of school is Sept. 7.

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