Mercer County Schools considers requiring masks for upcoming school year

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PRINCETON, WV (WVNS) — Superintendents across the state met with West Virginia State Board of Education officials on Wednesday July 28, 2021, to discuss potential plans as they prepare for the upcoming school year.

The CDC released updated guidelines, recommending students in all grades wear masks in school regardless of vaccinations. Superintendents met to discuss what this could mean for their districts

“It looks like masks will be required for in school operations, again nothing is final in Mercer county until the board approves,” said Edward Toman, the Mercer County Schools Superintendent.

Toman said they decided to follow those recommendations. He said this is not an official decision, but rather what he would do if the school year started now.

“You know what if that is the status that we are going with, if school were to start tomorrow then that is the recommendation I would bring to the board,” said Toman.

For some parents in the county, this is not necessarily good news.

“The kids aren’t getting those normal verbal skills, they are not learning the facial expressions they would normally be learning at this age,” said Jasmine Martin.

Martin is the mother of a rising third-grader, as he goes through speech education at a young age she is worried about the amount of education her child will miss behind the mask.

For Toman, he said student engagement and interaction is key, and he is working on how to best facilitate that while staying safe.

“You want that engagement, we all want that, that’s what I want as a parent you want to make sure your student is engaged. How do you guarantee the student is engaged and that’s what we need and how to break down barriers where that is not happening,” said Toman.

Toman said they have a lot to factor in before making a final decision. Martin said the decision should be left up to the parents.

“I feel like parents if they are scared and they want their kids to wear masks they should have that option,” said Martin.

Martin said she wants things to go back to normal and believes there are ways other than masks to do so.

“Encourage good hygiene, encourage handwashing, encourage if your child is sick, keep them home, if someone in your house is sick, keep them home,” said Martin.

For Superintendent Toman, he is unsure if things can ever return to the way they once were.

“Idon’t know if we will ever be normal again with the way we lived,” said Toman.

While he deliberates a final decision, Toman said he believes the best thing to do is trust in those at the state and national level.

According to Toman, the final decision is dependant upon what state officials recommend. He believes they will put together those guidelines within the next few weeks.

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