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Chester County Press

Blakey announces optional COVID masking when students return for new school year

07/19/2021 10:02PM ● By Steven Hoffman
Students in the Kennett Consolidated School District will return to classes on Aug 30 with the option of wearing masks or not. Those who have not been vaccinated for COVID-19 are encouraged, but not required, to wear them, said Superintendent Dr. Dusty Blakey at the board meeting on July 12.
The exception to the in-school policy is that everyone must wear a mask on the school bus.
During his health and safety report, Blakey said his COVID team of nurse Diane Shannon, assistant superintendent Michael Barber and facilities director George Wolhafe have been working directly with the Chester County Health Department and following their advice.
According to the department, Chester County has the highest vaccination rate of any county in the state with 89 percent of the qualified residents vaccinated. Last week there were 26 reported cases of COVID in the county, of which four of them were in children under the age of 9. Two more were between the ages of 10 and 18.
Blakey added that he and his team have been meeting with all the superintendents from Chester County schools and they all have put in place similar plans. The superintendents will continue to be in touch frequently, Blakey said.
The caveat of the uniformity of plans among school districts is that the health department announced earlier they can alter their plans if their districts encounter unique situations.
All districts are required to submit their COVID-19 plans to the state Department of Education. Blakey said Kennett’s has three main points:
1.  The district will continue to encourage vaccinations and support clinics.
2.  The district will continue cleaning protocols and will keep drinking fountains turned off.
3.  The district will offer Brandywine Virtual Academy for those parents who choose to keep their children home.
Shannon, the district health coordinator, said she feels good going forward with the plan. She added that 90 percent of staff had received vaccinations, as have hundreds of students.
“I believe those numbers will continue to increase,” she said.
She reminded her audience that throughout the pandemic the school has not detected any person-to-person transmission within the school buildings. “The students who were affected got them at home or with sleepovers and parties,” she said.
Blakey concluded his presentation by telling the board that, as school reopens, they will continue to offer breakfast and lunch meals. He also warned parents to keep their children home if they are sick, “[even] if it’s just sniffles or a tummy ache.”
In other business, Middle School assistant principal Jacob Moore announced the revising and expansion of three courses: wellness and fitness, financial literacy and family development and safety. He said that the students, by enrolling in one of another of the courses, will be able to choose to explore their specific interests and get deeper exposure to them. In some ways, he said, it is a way to gain familiarity with possible career paths.
School board president Joe Meola bid his colleagues adieu in the face of his coming retirement to Florida. “It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve,” he said.