Pattye Benson

Community Matters

TE School District Says Yes to Mask Mandate but Where’s the Vaccine Requirement for Employees?

Just as schools are about to open in TESD on August 30, there is news from states where schools have already opened, about hospitals treating growing numbers of kids who have COVID-19. This is happening as schools are resuming in-person learning, leading to mask mandates, anti-mask mandates and frustration from parents, students and the community.

Experts don’t know if kids are getting sicker with the delta variant of COVID, but they do know that this variant is more contagious, meaning more people, including kids who can’t get vaccinated, are catching it. In our District, it was determined that a mask mandate is the safest way to start the school year.

According to Dr. Gusick’s August 13 letter to T/E parents, COVID mitigation protocol which took effect August 16 includes a mask requirement for all individuals aged two and over while indoors in any District building and on school buses.

The letter went on to state that masking is optional during outdoor activities such as recess, activity, or PE. The District’s mask requirement follows the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines which states, “… Due to the circulating and highly contagious Delta variant, CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status…”

On Monday, August 23, 7:30 PM, there is regular school board scheduled at Valley Forge Middle School (note location change from Conestoga High School).  Based on Gusick’s letter all who attend the school board meeting must wear a mask — and how will that requirement be enforced?

There is an “Unmask TE”, anti-mask mandate rally planned for Monday night at 5 PM at Valley Forge Middle School, before the school board meeting. For some parents who oppose the mask mandate, they believe that their “individual rights and freedom” are at stake.

According to the Unmask TE flyer – “We are a group of parents supporting our kids physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.  We believe parents have the right to make health decisions for their children because every child is unique.” From a parent in the Unmask TE group, I received an email clarifying that, we ” … do not oppose masks but instead oppose mask mandates and believe masks should be optional.”

Given the essential goal of returning all students to a full, five-day, in person schedule, will those who oppose the mask mandate impact that achievement?  If parents are given a choice between masks and virtual school, which would they prefer?

From CDC, it is believed that mask wearing diminishes the risk of infection by the Delta variant – a risk that is likely to rise as temperatures cool and we spend more time indoors.

Making an argument in favor of a mask requirement in schools, a friend in South Carolina, wrote to me, “They’re just masks. They can be a little uncomfortable and annoying sometimes, but that’s it. They’re manageable. They save lives and – despite some people’s apparent fears – they don’t reflect on their wearers’ politics.”

Another point on which most medical experts agree is that kids should be “ringed” by vaccinated parents, teachers, and school staff.   Our District is mandating mask wearing for all, yet there is no vaccine mandate for those who work in the schools.  

In my opinion, there should be two choices for those that work in the District’s buildings – either you are vaccinated or agree to weekly COVID testing. I accept that my position is probably not favorable with members of TEEA (Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association), the District’s teachers union.

To be clear, leaders of both large national teachers unions — the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association — have both voiced support for vaccine mandates for school staff. They do however add the caveat, that the details should be negotiated locally.

The school board in Upper Merion Area School District (UMASD) voted unanimously to mandate all teachers and staff either show proof of COVID vaccination or or be tested twice a week for COVID (and wear a mask) when school opens. Interesting to note that Jeffery Sultanik is the solicitor for UMASD as he is for TESD! To read the Resolution on Amendments to to the UMASD Health & Safety Plan , click here.

My question to our school board is, why are YOU not requiring vaccines for everyone working in our schools?

If students must mask up for safety, their teachers should have to get their shots or participate in weekly COVID testing. As masks are mandated for all those that enter District buildings – COVID vaccines or weekly testing should also be required for all employees.

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46 Comments

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  1. Small correction:
    TESD’s solicitor is Ken Roos, not Jeff Sultanik. I believe TESD uses Sultanik for contract negotiations.

    1. Thanks Keith. Since TEEA and TENIG is involved, perhaps Sultanik’s relationship with TESD contract negotiations would be needed — if vaccinations or testing were to be mandated?

  2. Gov. Wolf stated he will not mandate statewide mask requirement but says the decision is up to the individual school districts. Our school district made their decision but doesn’t the actual vote for masks have to occur in public at the school board meeting?

  3. As a former teacher in TE (and someone with grandkids currently in the district), I absolutely support required COVID vaccination for all those who work in our schools. If there’s some kind of medical, religious (or other) reason that prohibits you from having a COVID vaccination, you should be required to be tested weekly. This should not be a difficult decision for our school board, just do it.

  4. I think that if you mandate shots for all teachers and staff, ALL persons >12 years of age that have a household member associated with TESD need to be vaccinated. This mandate needs to go both ways. TESD families need to take responsibility to keep teachers and staff safe too.

    1. The mask mandate in TE schools is not fully enforced. I’ve visited Conestoga HS each day this week and while district employees are wearing masks, very very few construction workers are wearing them. Colm Kelly knows this. Dr. Meisinger knows this. I’ve witnessed them both do nothing while witnessing maskless construction workers. Why is the mask mandate not enforced for the construction workers inside Conestoga HS? The mandate applies to all persons inside the school buildings, right?

      1. Agree. The mask requirement is for ALL people in the District buildings, including construction workers. And it needs to be enforced. Period, no exceptions. School board/administration — the mask mandate needs to apply to ALL.

        1. This is a very concerning issue. If the messaging is not coming from the top-down at our schools, the risk increases exponentially. The principals and administrators must set an example for the students, staff and visitors.

      1. Interesting AP article—surprised you didn’t include another AP article, “Board approves Richmond public school staff vaccine mandate” August 17, 2021
        RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — All Richmond public school staff must get the COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 1.

        The Richmond School Board approved Superintendent Jason Kamras’ push for a vaccine mandate for staff on Monday in an 8-1 vote, news outlets report. Other adults in the school buildings, such as volunteers and community partners, are also required to get vaccinated.

        To go back to the original AP article–“the COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective at preventing severe disease and hospitalization. Now that many people have had the opportunity to get vaccinated in the United States, the majority of people dying from COVID-19 across the country are unvaccinated.”

        So, why isn’t TESD mandating vaccines for all employees?

  5. With all due respect this post is off mark! Why does the school mandate masks yet take away other safety protocols used in June? Is there any science behind this mandate? If anything I find it very confusing. You wear a mask when you need to be taught BUT outside in the courtyard or playground forget about it!?! Huh! Oh and when it comes to sports take tons of pics with all the players side-by-side but inside cover up. At what point will the mask mandate be lifted? I believe myself and other parents want the TESD to get back to educating our kids. To quote a friend in South Carolina and say “kids will get used to it” is wrong. Our students deserve better and need to learn again. When in a classroom with a teacher and students all wearing masks it is harder to make clear teaching concepts with masks on. With masks on kids loss interest in learning. Kids and teachers can’t learn effectively with them in place. This is a fact! Why is there no compromise or incentive to vaccinate others in our community. If we are all so concerned about this virus why hasn’t the school district been offering more vaccine clinics to vaccinate as many teachers and students? Why not reward those who are vaccinated with a choice? Perhaps more people would get vaccinated. Instead, I see students continue to be left out
    of the conversation. In this fight, common sense and local data is out the window. Wearing masks is simply virtue signaling. The incoming senior class has lost two students to suicide these past 15 months – why are we not asking how to help with our students mental well being? I see none!

    1. Thank you Students Forgotten Again!

      It’s just insanity to say “students will get used to it”. 2 of my kids have speak issues and delayed speech. If they had to wear a mask in K-3 they would have had worse time learning to speak and learn.

      And as far as incentives to get vaccinated…. At this stage in the game those who have wanted to have and those who choose not to or wait have as well. There won’t be a huge bump in vaccinations in a county that’s already at 86%.

      Also, let us remember that this is an “experimental” vaccine, still not fully approved past emergency use.

  6. Thank you so much for posting this article. As the parent of an incoming CHS student who also has a seriously immunocompromised family member at home, this issue is of the utmost importance. The mask mandate is a major first step, but the devil is in the details, such as effective enforcement, administrators at each school setting a good example, and mitigation plans for lunches and PE periods (which are currently vague and a risk area). It is our duty as a community to work together to keep our teachers, staff, and students as safe as possible. Personally, I strongly support a vaccine mandate for all staff. We’re only as safe as our most vulnerable resident, and we must work together to protect them until this threat has passed.

    1. If you are afraid of catching the virus, make your child wear as many masks layers as you choose, or just stay home. Don’t make other suffer because of your fear.

      1. “Zach”

        It’s not about fear. It’s about scientific fact. The unvaccinated are not only the ones dying, they are spreading it to everyone else.

        1. Another Barbara….it is about fear. Chester county has something like 86% vaccination. The science is that the vaccinated also can get it and spread it, not just this boogie man of the unvaccinated. Do you also realize that many of the unvaccinated have had COVID and now have natural immunity? Stop marginalizing this group as a class of people.

          COVID-19 will continue to spread and find new hosts as long as it can. Virology 101 tells us it will become more contagious and less severe. A vaccine is not 100%. No one said you wouldn’t get it, just that there would be less of a chance of getting severely sick or hospitalized. It will eventually act like the flu every year with a new strain. We need to learn to live with it.

          It’s laughable to think that wearing a mask or 2 is going to stop it. Masks are great with a virus that spreads with droplets. This virus is smaller and goes right through that paper or fabric mask. Keep the most vulnerable protected, eat right, exercise and let’s get on with it.

          1. As of today (8/24), Chester County has 63.6% total vaccination and 72% with at least one shot. We are doing well, but no where near 86%.

            7 day moving average case counts are finally moving down after hitting a high of 89 new case per day.

            Paoli, Bryn Mawr and Phoenixville hospitals are on divert status.

            Not arguing mask policy with you, just making sure we are working with a good idea of the current status in out area,

            1. Maybe these articles below were wrong then or the rates have fallen somehow, my mistake. But after looking at the CDC tracker for Chester County it’s a game of averages and different age groups. What do they say …. figures lie and liars figure.

              Cases are down and more importantly less hospitalizations. Everyone should check out the CDC website for Chester Countyhttps://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view

              Percentages can be scary but you need to look at the numbers per beds, per population etc. BTW, I was at Phoenixville hospital this afternoon giving a friend a ride home after an unexpected visit. He said they are extremely understaffed, this can’t be helping the current surge of cases, maybe that’s why they are on divert status?

              https://www.chestercounty.com/2021/07/14/362637/covid-19-vaccination-rate-in-chester-county-stands-at-89-percent

              https://www.dailylocal.com/local-news/chester-county-the-most-vaccinated-county-in-pennsylvania/article_d5711eb4-c493-11eb-bfee-dbfb17bf2d9e.html

              1. Tina, you are correct about the understaffed hospitals. One of my co-workers daughters is a nurse at Christiana Hospital in Delaware. Since they mandated staff must have their first shot by September 21 some weeks ago, there has been a significant amount of departure by staff, most of whom are 30s and above. Their argument against the mandated jab is pretty good – since the start of Covid, hospital staff have been working and and continue to work under appropriate protocols without any issues and without vaccinations so why are they now requiring?

        1. It’s not the fear to wear mask, but it’s proven scientifically that masks that vast majority of the people wearing (non-N95) only help 10%.

          The people who accused others being science deniers are really the science deniers.

          Data from Israel also showed that natural immunity to covid is 6-7 times better than vaccine-induced immunity. You can get the covid jabs every few months and wear your mask for the rest of your life because of your fear. For the rest of us, covid is endemic and it’ll stay forever, and we will find ways to co-live with it just like we do for the flu.

          By the way, my immune compromised husband got covid, he’s just sick for a couple of weeks. Our full household are all covid-super-immuned and are ready to protect our community.

    2. My youngest had RSV and pneumonia at 11 months old. We almost lost her as a result. After that she had lung issues all of elementary school and through later years.

      I wish everyone then was as concerned about getting a flu shot as they are about Covid!!! They warned us when she was in elementary school that the flu would land her in the hospital or worse. Then and now less then 50% get a flu shot. Btw she did get the flu in high school but it was mild with no complications. She’s even had COVID this past December and it was mild without having the vaccine yet. It was a huge decision to get the Covid shot this dori g but she did although she is also immunocompromised with an auto immune condition. It was a decision made by her and her doctors, not by by anyone else.

      And those dirty face masks your kids are wearing….full of germs. A group of moms sent their kids masks off to be tested after a day at school, numerous bacteria, fungus and even E. coli. How about wash hands frequently and most importantly keep your kids home if sick with anything. Don’t pump them up with Advil and send them in.

  7. It’s absurd to mandate the vaccine for any group, including teachers. If you are concerned about covid, get the jab. If you are unable to get the jab as a teacher due to underlying conditions, you can get a leave of absence. If a parent is concerned for their child, there will be virtual options.

  8. What happened to My body my choice…..and don’t tell me a pandemic. Most kids have been living their lives without masks all summer long….and are FINE ! If you are scared of getting the virus, then wear a mask, get the vaccine and go virtual if you so wish.

    Most importantly, kids shouldn’t have to suffer or taught to live in fear. Are they going to start to mandate head gear if something falls of the ceiling and someone in the head ? My kids have asthma and are breathing much better since the mandate has been lifted and I prefer they stay breathing.

  9. The agenda is posted for Monday, 8/23 school board meeting. In the District’s Health & Plan Update, is the following:

    “Vaccination of staff: weekly COVID-19 testing will be required of all staff who are unvaccinated or decline to disclose vaccination status. Staff is defined as all TESD employees and all contract service providers working in our buildings.”

    So — teachers will need to prove vaccination or have weekly COVID testing!!

    1. Saw that—Thanks for highlighting, Pattye.

      Realize a lot is going on right now to prepare for 2021-2022 school year however, it would have been helpful information if communicated to parents in the August 13th letter–highlighting we’re all in this together–students need to wear masks, employees need to be vaccinated or tested weekly.

  10. The Administration will never go against the teachers. TE teachers have all power and control. The Administrators started out as teachers. They are all in it together. The students don’t matter to the teachers or Administrators at all. They mandate masks for students while they allow teachers to not be vaccinated. It’s a blatant insult to TE students and families who always bear the burden while teachers take zero responsibility and get whatever they want. Wake up TE.

    1. For tomorrow’s TE School Board meeting, the agenda includes the District’s Health & Plan Update. Included is the following information:

      “Vaccination of staff: weekly COVID-19 testing will be required of all staff who are unvaccinated or decline to disclose vaccination status. Staff is defined as all TESD employees and all contract service providers working in our buildings.”

      However — the caveat is that it is UNCLEAR to me if this policy is now in effect or if the school board has to take a vote at the meeting. But assuming that it is (or becomes with a vote) policy, teachers will need to prove vaccination or have weekly COVID testing.

      That means there’s two District unions impacted — the teachers union and TENIG.

    1. Interesting question — I have not heard of a reason given for the location switch.

      As a reminder: ALL attendees at tomorrow’s school board meeting (7:30 PM, Valley Forge Middle School) must wear masks! If you do not wear a mask, the school board stated in the agenda that they can stop the meeting and go to virtual. A resident suggested to me that if they school board was to stop the in-person meeting and go to virtual meeting, it should have a delayed start — because all the attendees will need to vacate the building and drive home.

  11. Vaccinations and masks should be mandated for everyone. I know for a fact vaccinated people are going to ER Main Line Health hospitals (Paoli) for broken bones and other non-Covid related emergencies, and testing positive for Covid.

    1. Another Barbara. Exactly! We are all going to get it whether you know it or not. You just proved the point that that a virus is gonna do what a virus is gonna do. It will continue to spread and find new hosts as long as it can. Virology 101 tells us it will become more contagious and less severe. A vaccine is not 100%. No one said you wouldn’t get it, just that there would be less of a chance of getting severely sick or hospitalized.

      It’s laughable to think that wearing a mask or 2 is going to stop it. Masks are great with a virus that spreads with droplets. This virus is smaller and goes right through that paper or fabric mask. Keep the most vulnerable protected and let’s get on with it.

    1. “The people that have taken it(the Covid vaccine) are going to die in the next 6 months or 3-5 years.”

      C’mon. Really?
      That’s the horse you’re backing?

      You must be investing HEAVILY in body bags and funeral homes then?
      Maybe building your own crematorium?

  12. Why is it that only 59 out of Pennsylvania’s 474 school districts are mandating masks for Fall 2021?https://www.mcall.com/news/pennsylvania/mc-pa-wolf-mask-mandate-20210825-aickd54q5jhetmyivoco3glx7y-story.html

    Why in Chester County, with the highest vaccination rate in the state, does our school district require masks?

    I’m not sure we’ve had death in Chester County in many, many months.

    This weekly update by Chester County Health Department is a good source – https://www.chesco.org/DocumentCenter/View/60838/Monitoring-and-Protecting-Green

  13. The SD does have a policy that teachers, staff have proof of vaccination or will be tested weekly. You might want to revise your post. And in fact, no one spoke about the policy at the SB meeting.

    1. The post was written before the board meeting — however, if read through the comments on this post, you will see that I did provide the information and included the exact working in quotes from the District’s Health & Plan Update.

  14. I read the posted update today. I’m confused about the fact that teachers would quarantine but kids would not under the same exposure (see below from the FAQ on the TESD site).
    1. Was this distinction elaborated on at the meeting?
    2. When the teacher quarantines, will they be working virtually or will subs be in the room and the teacher is given the time off?
    3. What was the medical/science support for the difference?
    4. Wouldn’t teachers have LESS need to quarantine since they have had the chance to be vaccinated?
    5. Also what about exposure in the lunchroom?

    I get that there is no longer a way for quarantined kids to watch a class virtually unless they are in the full virtual program at BVA but that still wouldn’t explain why teachers HAVE to quarantine.

    ————–

    FROM THE FAQ:

    What is considered a ‘close contact’ in terms of COVID-19 exposure and when does a student need to quarantine?

    Close contact: A person within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes over a 24-hour period is considered a close contact.

    Exception for K-12 Indoor Classroom Setting: The close contact definition excludes students who were within 3-6 feet of an infected student if both the infected student and the exposed
    student(s) correctly and consistently wore well-fitting masks the entire time, and other mitigation strategies as described in this plan were followed. This reinforces the need for proper
    masking, as the number of close contact will be greatly reduced in the event of a positive case.

    This exception does not apply to teachers, staff, or other adults in the indoor classroom setting.

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