BDS board members reverse mask mandate for employees

Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 10:43 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Things might look a little different around Bay District Schools with a new mask policy starting Wednesday.

To mask up or to mask down, that was the decision Bay District School board members faced Tuesday. With each having their opinion.

“I think the responsible decision is to wear masks, or at least have our employees wear masks,” Vice-Chairman Pamm Chapman said.

“The majority of the people wanted to make the mask optional,” Board Member Brenda Ruthven said.

In the end, the board voted three to two to make masks optional for all employees on district property effective immediately. The deciding vote was made by chairman Steve Moss.

“I guess my question was how effective were those masks if we’re only making them mandate that they wear them in the classroom and not anywhere else and so that’s why I voted the way I did,” Moss said.

Some concerned parents argued masks are effective in the classrooms.

“In my opinion what is the harm in wearing it? It doesn’t hurt you any,” Parent Jennifer Owen said.

As of Tuesday, there were 174 new BDS COVID cases between students and staff, leaving 606 students and staff to quarantine.

“We just shut down four Pre-K classrooms today {Tuesday},” said Husfelt.

Which had some parents arguing about who is really trying to be protected in the classrooms.

“The most important person in that room is the teacher,” One concerned parent said.

“I must disagree with my nice friend here, the teacher is not the most important person in the classroom, the children are,” Another concerned parent said.

“I’m not really worried about the students. I mean those who are immunocompromised I understand that. It’s the employees that I’m really worried about, protecting themselves from each other,” Husfelt said.

And even with the reversal of the mask mandate...

“I can say those parents or those employees that are passionate about wearing masks, then wear them. Absolutely wear them,” said Moss.

They want to reiterate masks are still optional for students, but strongly encouraged.

“Right now there are eight school districts out of the 67 that are mandating masks for students, Bay District Schools is not one of them. And again, we as a board and even the superintendent have had no discussions or no workshops, no anything in regards to heading that direction.”

A direction to protect every student and staff is what the board says they hope to do.

Both Moss and Chapman said they expect to revisit the decision on masks mandates over the next few weeks and even months.

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