SENECA VALLEY (KDKA) — The Seneca Valley School District will require students to wear masks as long as Butler County has “high” or “substantial” COVID-19 spread.

The decision came down during Monday’s school board meeting, which featured a divided and raucous crowd.

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“They need to see facial expressions, they need to understand what is happening here,” another speaker said. “We are creating learning disabilities every day.”

The topic of masks was front and center for the Seneca Valley School Board. The meeting featured speakers, including some who did not hold back.

“You are seeing a lot of anger tonight, a lot of anger from parents who don’t want to wear a mask. They talk about freedom and choice. I want to point out that freedom comes with responsibility and obligations. This is part of living in a society,” one speaker said.

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“What the science is unclear on is the emotional and mental tolls that will only be told from years from now if we mandate masks,” said Erin McClemons.

In the end, the school board voted 7-2 to require masks for students. Masks must be worn when there is a “substantial” or “high” transmission level of COVID-19.

Two weeks ago, the school board announced in its health and safety plan that masks are optional but recommended. Since then, Butler County has moved to a “high” level of community transmission, which made the board revisit the plan.

“Will you keep our children safe? Will you make kind and responsible decisions to protect the teachers and students in this district? The opportunity is right in front of you. Act while you still can and require masks when we are at high and substantial levels of transmission,” said Chris Droesch.

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After the vote, KDKA’s Jennifer Borrasso tried to get a reaction from board members and a district spokesperson but was told no one was available.

Jennifer Borrasso