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Chester County Press

Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board adopts health and safety plan for new school year

08/17/2021 12:14PM ● By Steven Hoffman

The Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board voted unanimously to adopt its newest health and safety plan which sets masking guidelines that district residents at the Aug. 16 meeting unanimously criticized.

The meeting also featured a 20-minute recess just 12 minutes in after one district resident spoke for more than the allotted three-minute public comment timeframe, and there were pleas from residents to vote against mandatory masking, especially for the elementary schools.

East Marlborough resident Erik Dietrich advocated for parents to have the choice as to whether their children would need masks when they return to in-person learning, something Chadds Ford resident Steven Jones also spoke about.

“Is this board prepared to keep students in masks indefinitely?” Jones asked. “Masking students for eight hours a day should be the parents’ choice.”

Pennsbury resident Stacy Gallo said her daughter, whose acne was inflamed due to wearing a mask while at school last year, “would rather get COVID again than wear a mask again this year and go through all that pain.”

Chadds Ford resident Dion Rassias said before the vote that he thought the board members had made up their minds already, saying, “I had this preordained feeling that no matter what anyone said to you isn’t going to move any pieces this evening. This is not a one-size-fits-all solution or problem.”

The school reopening health and safety plan establishes regulations for universal masking in certain circumstances, the cleaning of facilities, and contact tracing, among other things. For instance, masks would be required in elementary schools for all but a low county transmission level of COVID, and would be required in the middle and high schools during substantial and high county transmission, according to the plan.

“We are not mandating masking,” district superintendent John Sanville said at the meeting. “We are requiring masking under certain transmission levels.”

In the secondary schools, masks would be optional during low county transmission and recommended during moderate county transmission.

Sanville sent an update to the community on Saturday that outlined the health and safety plan, writing, “Our goal is to provide full-day, in-person instruction for all students. Normal instructional activities including breakfast and lunch will be provided. For students who opt to attend online classes, the UCFVA is available.

“The success of our plan is reliant upon the continuation of mitigation measures including masking (on district transportation and as required inside), increased air exchanges and improved ventilation, HEPA filters, social distancing, assurance testing, handwashing, and respiratory etiquette.”

Many of the residents who spoke cited “mask anxiety” among their kids, something Sanville said that district staff and teachers are being trained to handle.

“We’re ready to tackle head-on any social or emotional issues that are going to arise from COVID,” Sanville said, adding that the first people to address any mask anxiety among students would be the teachers. “Our teachers have received training, and they are adept at discerning when a child is in distress.”

A copy of the health and safety plan can be found on the district’s website,