The Chancellor Center in Newtown Borough houses the administrative offices of the Council Rock School District.

NEWTOWN >> The Council Rock School Board has called a special meeting for August 26 to discuss the latest school opening guidance from the Bucks County Health Department on mask wearing. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 pm at the Chancellor Center.

“The primary purpose of this special board meeting will be to discuss how the latest guidance from the BCHD might impact the CRSD Health and Safety Plan, and then vote accordingly,” Superintendent Robert Fraser said Wednesday in an email to the community.

Based on new information from area hospitals, the Bucks County Health Department on August 17 revised the county’s school guidance to include a recommendation for masking of all students.

“While our COVID-19 cases among school-aged children remain very low, hospitals are growing concerned that any pediatric COVID-19 cases could stress the system,” said Damsker noting that many of the region’s  specialty pediatric hospitals are already operating at close to capacity because of non-COVID illnesses and staffing issues. 

"Because of this, hospitals in Bucks County have recommended that schools begin the fall semester with a mask requirement,” said Damsker

"We support their recommendation to follow CDC guidance on masking in schools,” he continued. “This is particularly important for students who are unvaccinated, which includes all students under 12. We continue to urge, in the strongest possible sense, that everyone gets vaccinated.”

Under Council Rock’s current health and safety plan adopted by the board in May, students in all grades would return to school with masks optional. The superintendent underscored that guidance at the board’s August 5 board meeting based on information from Dr. Damsker.

“The CRSD Pandemic Team is reviewing, and continues to review this most recent guidance from Dr. Damsker,” said Fraser.

“I was clear at the most recent board meeting that Dr. Damsker’s recommendations have earned my trust over the course of the pandemic,” said Fraser, “and that my recommendations were aligned at the time, and will continue to align, with those coming from Dr. Damsker. That viewpoint has not changed, as I continue to have confidence in the recommendations that Dr. Damsker is making.”

The local debate over masking comes as the Delta variant is on an upswing across the nation and the CDC is recommending the masking  of all school children, teachers, staff and visitors (K to 12) this fall regardless of immunization status.

It also comes as Council Rock parents from both sides of the masking issue have been rallying support through social media, online petition drives and email campaigns.

During the August 5 school board meeting, more than 30 residents spoke on both sides of the issue with one side arguing for choice and the other for health and safety.

In a letter sent to six public school districts in the 10th Senatorial District, State Senator Steve Santarsiero weighed into the debate urging school districts to adopt mask-wearing requirements for the coming school year based on the latest school opening guidance.

“The goal we all share is for students and faculty to have a productive and safe in-person school year,” Sen. Santarsiero said. “Requiring masks at this time will help achieve that goal and stop the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.”

School is scheduled to open in the Council Rock School District on Monday, August 30 for K-6, 7 and 9 and Tuesday, August 31 for all students. 

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