The Logan County Board of Education approved revised guidelines for the 2021-2022 school year that included a universal mask mandate for students, staff and visitors in buildings regardless of vaccination status.
Board members unanimously approved recommendations provided by Logan County School Superintendent Patricia Lucas during a special session meeting of the board Thursday evening.
The state board of education has not issued a mandate forcing schools to universally require masks, and continues to encourage local control by school boards and local health officials to make those decisions.
The mask mandate will be in effect if the color-coded county alert map generated by the state Department of Health and Human Resources is red, orange or gold for Logan County. The county alert map tracks the severity of infection across all 55 counties daily. Masks will be encouraged, not mandatory, if the county is yellow or green for five consecutive days. Thursday's map indicated Logan County in the red zone.
Students with certain medical, sensory, cognitive or behavioral needs may not be required to wear a mask and accommodations will be determined individually. A mask exemption form signed by a health care provider will be required before a final determination is made. The mask requirement is only mandatory inside buildings and buses. Masks are not required outside or while eating and drinking.
Music and band classes will be permitted, but singers will have to be masked.
Logan County's universal mask mandate may be viewed here:
Thursday’s decision is a reversal of a masks optional approach that was approved by a 4-1 vote three weeks ago. Board member Debbie Mendez was the dissenting vote at the time.
“I highly recommend wearing a mask,” Mendez said during the meeting. “I have asked doctors if they recommend wearing masks and they said yes. It’s not a hundred percent but that one percent may save a child.”
Mendez is a nurse and said people have not had the experience of seeing people hospitalized with the virus.
“A lot of people haven’t seen all these people really suffer and they gasp for air,” Mendez said. “I can’t tell you to protect yourself. I’m asking you to protect yourself and your children.”
According to the COVID-19 tracking system on the Logan County Schools website, 152 cases of the virus have been confirmed since school began August twenty-sixth.
Logan County Schools COVID-19 cases can be viewed here:
The Logan County Health Department reports there are 378 active cases of the virus currently in the county. A number more than triple the active cases three weeks ago.
The West Virginia Department of Education released new guidelines limiting when a school should enter a widespread contact tracing quarantine.
The state’s revised rules were created in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Resources and are intended to help keep children in the classroom for in-person learning instead of closing entire buildings due to an outbreak. Quarantine is not mandatory if a mask is worn at the time of an exposure.
School Superintendent Patricia Lucas said her recommendation to the board was based on the state departments new guidelines.
“They added some new language in regards to the universal mask policy."
Moreover, Lucas said the goal of the new guidelines is to maximize the impact of the continuity of in-person learning and to provide a safe and healthy environment for students.
County board member Barry Mullins said he doesn’t know if the mandate will change much but prayed it will.
“It’s been a plague on us,” Mullins said. “I hope and pray we change it with these masks for the kids.”
Board President Jeremey Farley said the board has to confront tough decisions as the outbreak continues to dominate everyday life.
"Unfortunately, we as a board are thrown into a difficult position that we have a global pandemic and we've talked about this for over a year," Farley said.
Farley said the board has made difficult decisions with the interest of the students and staff in mind. He said that the subject of masks is very controversial currently, but he said the decision to put a mask mandate in effect is a decision to keep students in the class room.
"I think that will give us some stability as we head into next week," Farley said.
The mask mandate goes into effect Friday, September 10.
The next regular session meeting of the Logan County Board of Education is Tuesday, September 14 at the Ralph R. Willis Career and Technical Center.