The Putnam County School System will maintain its mask mandate over the final three weeks of school.
The School Board voted 5-1 to continue the mandate with Kim Cravens objecting to the decision. Cravens made a first motion to immediately lift the mandate. An overflow audience applauded Cravens’ motion, but it did not receive a second.
School Board Chair Lynn McHenry said he objected to the governor’s decision to bring up the issue so close to the end of the school year.
“I think we were doing very well,” McHenry said. “We were nearing this end of this school year and doing, quite frankly, extremely well with the strides that we had made. I want to get rid of this just as quickly as I can, but at the same time, I want things to not be divided over a mask policy that we have three weeks left. What we need to do is be concentrating on the things that we have left in our school year to make sure that our children are still receiving the education that they deserve.”
Jerry Maynard made the motion to keep the mandate through the end of the year and reevaluate later. He said with so few days remaining, it did not make sense to change things now.
Cravens said the original decision to mandate masks was a good decision because it helped Putnam County stay in school. However, she said the low numbers of COVID cases in the county along with the availability of vaccines made now a good time to make a change.
“There comes a point when there is personal accountability and responsibility to move forward and I would love nothing more than our kids to see each other’s faces and their teacher faces through the end of the tear,” Cravens said.
“I really feel that those 16 days, I think we can manage to maintain where we are at,” School Board Member David McCormick said.
McHenry said the community needs to understand the sacrifice made by students, teachers and the community at-large to keep children in school during this pandemic year.
“We’ve been in been in school this year,” McHenry said. “I don’t know if our community realizes how much of an exception that is throughout the state and throughout the country. We’ve been in school. That is what we need to be focusing on, the fact that we’ve been able to educate our children in school this year.”
“I do want them to go away. I support the idea of getting rid of them. And I support my colleagues in removing them, beginning with the summer programs and most of all, above everything. I want the kids to know that we’re here for their education first and foremost.”