Danielle White is the mom of a high schooler at Northern Cambria School District in Cambria County.
She says her daughter who is not vaccinated and doesn’t wear a mask was sent to the auditorium Monday during the school day.
“She was in the auditorium all day. She has VoTech and she was not allowed to go. They did not have a teacher there teaching them anything educational. They were told to do work if you have work, and that’s it. So, they’re being stripped of their education because of this,”
The school mask mandate at Northern Cambria was put into effect Monday, sparking controversy among those who refuse to wear one.
Kristy Smarsh is a teacher’s aide at the school.
She says she was asked to leave work early and leave school property because she won’t comply with the mask mandate.
“They did not fire me, but they said that until I either comply or get a signed doctor’s note I would not be allowed to be at the school,” Smarsh said.
Parents like Bruce Corson say the mask mandate causes their unmasked and unvaccinated children to be segregated from the rest.
“They’re definitely being discriminated against, there’s no doubt in our minds,” he said.
Northern Cambria Superintendent Bob Rocco responded to their concerns in an email saying, “All we are doing is enforcing the mask mandate (as are many other districts) that was sent out by the Dept. of Health in the best interest of the health, safety, and welfare of the staff and students.”
The students who did not have masks (and refused to take and wear one) were moved to the large group instruction room/auditorium and sat in the seats that had desks built in. The students had Chromebooks and were sent work via Google Classroom by their classroom teachers.
“The students present all had a certified teacher covering the group of students to assist them if they needed help. The divider was used because the district had multiple groups in that space and did not want them to disturb each other,” the Superintendent continued in the email.
Ashley Boring, another Northern Cambria parent, said they’re not getting the same level of education in the auditorium.
“They were given their Chromebook, but the teachers did not post any homework on there or any information for them to do anything. They were just sitting in there,” she said.
Tasha Goss has one child in the high school and two in the middle school: one on the autism spectrum and another with an anxiety disorder.
She says both kids were sent to the auditorium for refusing to comply with the mask mandate, because they hate wearing masks.
“I’m scared for my kids, cause neither one of them want to wear a mask, and they don’t want to do cyber school. So, we’re exhausting our options as to what we can do,” Goss said.
Many school officials say mask-wearing can help ensure in-person instruction, because it decreases the number of quarantines based on CDC guidelines.
Northern Cambria officials write on their website, “Positive students will be sent home and quarantined, close contact students will not be quarantined if wearing a mask.”
But parents including Brent Findley say they want to make the choice on whether or not their child wears a mask.
“We hope that the school just goes back to the way they had it, and let the parents make the choice of their kids wearing the mask, or not to wear the mask,”