Cassville schools tightens masking policy for staff

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

4 employees, middle school volleyball team under quarantine

The Cassville school district has tightened its masking policy, as all staff in the buildings will now be required to wear masks, even when socially distanced.

The change from the original Return to Learn plan, which called for masking when social distancing was not possible, was made at Thursday’s school board meeting by a vote of 6-1. Board members Jon Horner, Wade Hermansen, Becky Henningson, Jeremy Marple, Chad Johnson and Chad Yarnall voted in favor, and Steve Henbest provided the dissenting vote.

Henbest said his vote was reflective of his wishes as a parent of students in the district.

“It is my opinion, as a father of two in the district, that we should try to maintain as much normalcy and structure as possible for our students and staff,” he said. “I believe our students need to see smiles on the teacher’s faces, not masks. Our staff is among the highest educated in the community, and I firmly believe they are capable of determining what is best in their individual classrooms and buildings.”

Asbill said he recommended the change to the board due to guidance from the Barry County Health Department and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“The guidance is for staff to be required to wear a mask, and we felt like doing anything other than that is not where we should be as employers or taking masking seriously as it relates to COVID-19,” Asbill said. “This is a proactive strategy as employers to continue to attend schools. Our job is to educate children, and we are trying to do that every day and as safely as possible. Right now, the guidance says that requiring masks is a reasonable and safe thing to do.”

Asbill said the evidence of contact tracing can already be seen, as on Thursday, the middle school volleyball team, seventh and eighth grades, has to stop practicing.

“Seventh- and eighth-grade volleyball has been suspended due to quarantine guidance,” Asbill said. “We are working on distance practice options and waiting for more health department guidance.”

Asbill said there are also four total employees, falling under both classified and non-classified, that are under health department quarantines, as well.

“That is an indicator that COVID contact tracing and exposures are real and can affect us,” Asbill said. “[The masking strategy] is aimed at limiting spread. No, it is not 100 percent effective, but we have a responsibility to do the best we can.

“We have 250-260 employees, and it’s a diverse group of employees with differing personal beliefs. We have to find the balance between personal responsibility and recommendations based on good information.”

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