At least 100 Northampton Area School District parents and residents attended the school board meeting on Monday, September 13 mainly to discuss the district’s mask policy. Due to the increased number of attendees, the meeting was held in the high school auditorium, and heightened security patrolled the meeting due to Steve Lynch’s viral comments.
The school board presented its 2021-22 school year health and safety plan at their July 19 meeting. Masks were optional, except on school buses at the time. However, superintendent Joseph Kovalchik also stated that the health and safety plan will continue to evolve as the pandemic does. On August 23, the school board unanimously voted to require masks in school for all students, staff, and visitors regardless of vaccination status.
A large majority of meeting attendees were there to oppose the district’s decision.
Among them was Steve Lynch, a candidate for Northampton County executive, who made headlines saying he would bring “20 strong men” to force school board members to “leave or be removed.”
Lynch said that the school board should let parents decide if their children will wear masks, citing the Lebanon County District Attorney’s decision not to prosecute violations to Governor Tom Wolf’s mask mandate. Further, he claimed that forcing children to wear masks is child abuse as it interferes with their breathing; another meeting attendee shared this sentiment.
Residents also brought up the seasonal flu and the 2009 swine flu pandemic. Statistics show more children die from the seasonal flu than the Coronavirus, and masks have never been required for that virus. Further, masks were not mandated during the 2009-10 swine flu pandemic that killed over 1,000 children.
Another resident cited a study that showed no statistical difference between schools that required masks and those that didn’t.
Parents also spoke on the long-term effects of both mask-wearing and the COVID vaccines, none of which are known at this point. However, it was suggested that extended mask-wearing causes harm to children, including dehydration and increased headaches, and the vaccines’ approval was rushed, making them unsafe.
Only one resident spoke in support of the school board’s decision.
She spoke on shared responsibility for the well-being of all community members and trusting in the science that has given us such great advances; wearing masks is a small thing that demonstrates both of these concepts.
In just the first two weeks of school, the district has had 41 positive Coronavirus cases and quarantined 185 students and staff, according to the board. Further, Mike Gurdineer, an eighth grade teacher and assistant football coach, lost his battle with COVID-19 on September 8.
In other business, the school board will hold a special meeting on September 20 at 6:30 p.m. to conduct interviews to fill the vacancy on the school board. Their next regularly scheduled meeting is scheduled for September 27 at 6:30 p.m.; all meetings will be held in the NAHS auditorium until further notice.