No parents spoke out in favor of the mask mandate during Thursday’s meeting.By Jessica Guay

WASHINGTON COUNTY (KDKA) — The Avella Area School District and school board are showing opposition to the statewide school mask mandate.

“A mandate is not a law,” said parent Kathy Avolio during a meeting Thursday night. “I’ve had it, and I’m here because I have a right as a parent. I’m not going to put this dirty thing on my kids.”

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Masks are not silencing some Avella Area School District parents. The last meeting on Tuesday was recessed after a long discussion about the statewide school mask mandate. On Thursday, parents picked up right where they left off.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

“I don’t want them to have to wear a mask for 18 hours. I don’t want them to have to wear a mask for 15 minutes,” said one woman who spoke before the board.

Avella board members passed two items on the agenda:

  • “The Board directs the Solicitor to communicate with counsel for the Plaintiffs, in the matter pending in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania at docket no. 294 MD 2021, that the Avella Area Board of School Directors also objects to the August 31, 2021 Order of the Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health Directing Face Coverings in School Entities, on the basis that imposition of a face covering mandate, if any, should rest in the discretion of each local duly elected school board, and to request that Plaintiffs’ counsel communicate the same to the Court.”
  • “The Board directs the Superintendent to communicate with the members of the Pennsylvania Legislature which represent the District’s constituents, of its support for legislation which would override the August 31, 2021 Order of the Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health directing face coverings in school entities, and/or which would preclude further Executive Orders of this nature in the future, on the basis that imposition of a face covering mandate, if any, should rest in the discretion of each local duly elected school board.”
  • The first item allows the solicitor to send a letter showing the board’s support for a lawsuit against the school mask mandate in Pennsylvania. The second allows the superintendent to send a letter to some state legislators, showing the district supports a bill that would override the order.

    “There are a lot of good people on this board. They’re up against the wall, the government has told them they have to do this,” said one man.

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    The parents who spoke during the meeting were hoping the board would vote “yes” to revise the mask exemption form to just require a parent’s signature, which would make getting a mask exemption easier, but that did not pass.

    “It’s very disappointing,” Avolio said. “We said there was a way out of this if they would have changed the exemption form to allow parents to opt-in or out. We’re not against if you want to wear a mask, wear a mask, I’m saying for my child.”

    Avolio said she and some of the parents plan to take their kids out of the district.

    “I have a lot of people behind me, if you don’t want to do what’s right by us and our children, I’m pulling my kid and I am putting him in cyber school,” she said.

    No parents spoke out in favor of the mask mandate during Thursday’s meeting. KDKA reporter Jessica Guay spoke with a parent over the phone who said they decided not to attend the meeting and instead, several parents sent letters to the board and superintendent.

    The parent shared this statement, “The Avella families in favor of the mask mandate are merely asking for the School Board to abide two simple principles: education and safety. Compliance with the state mandate protects not only our children and the district officials but also academic stability. We can only hope our board members fully comprehend the risks of defiance and litigation against the state.”

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    KDKA was told the school district is complying with the mandate.