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Chester County Press

Kennett schools will drop masking requirement by month’s end

02/21/2022 05:30PM ● By Steven Hoffman

The Kennett Consolidated School District has dropped its face mask mandate effective Feb. 28.

Superintendent Dr. Dusty Blakey made the announcement at the monthly board meeting on Feb. 14 in the Mary D. Lang Kindergarten Center. As of that date, the district no longer requires, but strongly recommends, wearing masks and will continue to monitor the levels of COVID-19 positivity.

At that meeting as well, the board heard a preliminary 2022-2023 operating budget presentation and a request by the high school Gender Sexuality Alliance to eliminate differences in graduation gown colors based on gender.  

Blakey prefaced the masking news by showing graphs of COVID-19 positivity in the school district as it reached a low point in November and then zoomed to new highs after the holiday break at the end of December. He pointed to the obvious visual high counts on the graph of 282 positive cases in the school district after the students returned from Christmas vacation. Since then, the incidences have dropped substantially, and as of the February meeting there were only three staff and 11 students reported COVID-19 positive.

“We are looking at continuation of that (downward) trend,” he said.

Blakey has the assent of his board to make decisions regarding the district’s response to the pandemic without calling a meeting for approval. Citing data from CHOP and the Chester County Health Department, he said the current COVID positivity rate of less than 5 percent prompted him to abandon the mask mandate.  

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Michael Barber presented numbers that, if reached, could cause the reestablishment of the mask mandate in the schools. Those figures represent 5 percent population of the respective schools. They are Mary D. Lang 13; Bancroft 20; Greenwood 27; New Garden 25; Middle School 46; and High School 88.

Barber added, “We’re moving forward with concerts and field trips. …We are excited to provide our kids with the opportunities with these events.” 

Budget discussion

Chief Financial Officer Mark Tracy presented a preliminary 2022-23 operating budget of $94 million that includes a proposed 2.03 percent real estate tax increase. The average taxpayer whose assessed property value is $182,000 would pay $5,914, an increase of $117 at a millage of .0325. A mill is a tax of $1 for every $1,000 of assessed real estate value.

Final approval of the budget is scheduled for the June meeting. “We’ll see if we can get it down by June,” Tracy added. 

Graduation gowns

Three members of the Kennett High School Gender Sexuality Alliance, Dio Gigante Dima, Jenna Oakes and Ash Wardwell, presented a request for a change in the colors of graduation gowns. Historically, girl graduates wore white gowns, and boy graduates wore blue gowns. The members of the alliance proposed that the school replace the differentiation with either all-blue or a combination blue-white on all gowns for everyone. They cited results of surveys they administered which indicated most members of the senior class agree with the recommendation to make a change.

The board will address the issue at the next meeting.