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Frontier BOE updates mask policy at emergency meeting

Frontier Local School District Board of Education Vice-President Joani Reese, left, and President Jeff Knowlton, right, participate Thursday in an emergency meeting to discuss mask policy to be used by the district. (Photo by Tyler Bennett)

NEW MATAMORAS — Holding an emergency meeting due to the rising number of students and staff having to quarantine due to COVID, the Frontier Local School District Board of Education updated its mask policy for schools.

The board met Thursday in the Frontier High/Middle School Media Center.

Starting next Wednesday, all staff and students who are vaccinated can be maskless at all times during school and riding the bus. However, those who are unvaccinated will have to wear masks at all times, from riding the bus to walking in the hallways. However, they can take off masks in the classroom as long as they maintain three feet of social distance between classmates in addition to eating lunch and being outside for recess.

Superintendent Beth Brown said she plans to have talks with the district’s lawyer from Bricker and Eckler to find out if that plan would legally be possible.

If legally unable to follow through with the original motion, the board also approved a backup plan. Under the backup, all students will have to wear a mask at all times but can take off the masks in the classroom as long as social distancing is possible.

“I like the compromise idea, when I think of kids here in this building, we space out pretty well. The travel in the hallways last year, we staggered it. We will probably go back to that, and it just reduced the number of kids at the same time,” Brown said. “We just had one direction of travel. I like the freedom of no mask, we did that for a whole year, but we understand right now it’s a different time than it was. I’m hoping that we do the masking protocol for a little while until the numbers go down.”

Board members Jeff Knowlton, Joani Reese and Adam Snyder voted in favor of the updated mask policy on the first motion with Jennifer Ramsey and Jarod Kiggans opposed. The backup plan was unanimously approved.

Frontier Schools was one of the few school districts in Washington County that didn’t mandate a mask policy for students and was able to start the 2020-2021 school year on time. Frontier only had 15 students quarantined last school year.

While still following the same COVID protocols this year, Frontier has had a total of 112 quarantined, affecting 29 families. It has already nearly matched last year’s totals of positive tests for students with nine, in addition to two members of the staff testing positive.

Newport Elementary School has been the hardest hit, as 60 students and four staff members had to quarantine with three testing positive just in this week.

The board’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be on Sept. 16 at 7 p.m.

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