CLARION - Since the Pennsylvania Department of Health mandated K-12 students in schools across the commonwealth wear face coverings, there has been a lot of pushback from parents, including those at Clarion Area School District.
Clarion Area School Board member Todd Bauer wants to make sure the parents in his district are directing their anger at the right people. Bauer made his feelings known at the board's work season held Sept. 7.
"I don't want to wear this mask," Bauer said. "I'm wearing it because I am mandated by the state to do so. This isn't our choice. This is coming out of Harrisburg."
Bauer asked the board and the assembled crowd how many were in favor of the mask mandate. Three board members and a smattering of those in the audience were in favor of the mask mandate.
"We can vote all night not to mandate a mask but that isn't going to make a difference when the state health department comes in here starts fining us and shutting the school down," Bauer said.
Clarion Area resident Matt Fitzsimmons asked Bauer, "You honestly think they are going to do that?"
Bauer responded, "I honestly think I don't want to put (Clarion Area Superintendent) Joe Carrico in that position. I don't want to make kids wear masks. Everybody is getting upset at the board and you are getting mad at the wrong people."
Clarion Area resident Steven Brewer didn't feel the board was doing enough to stop the use of masks in the district.
"I can't as a person go up and see the governor, but if our superintendent, principal, board members start pressuring up the line to our representatives who haven't done anything to stop this," Brewer said. "They said that it was illegal but they haven't stopped it. You (board members) haven't done anything to force (the representatives) to do it. That's what we elected you for. We didn't elect you to sit here and do nothing. If you have six people on this board who don't want masks, you should be pressuring our representatives right now."
Board President Hugh Henry pointed out to Brewer that it is not the board's responsibility to attempt to pressure the representatives.
"As board members we hire, fire and set policy," Henry said. "We put masks as optional when the school year started. We can't do anything to change the governor's policy."
Carrico said there were a number of students who brought a doctor's excuse to avoid wearing masks.
Carrico said those with doctor's excuses were excused from wearing masks. However, Carrico said he did investigate some of the doctors who were issuing the excuses to see if they were legitimate medical professionals.
Before the mask debate, there was a discussion regarding the district's policy of not letting organizations outside the district to use the high school auditorium.
Founder and Director of Clarion Center for the Arts BreAnna Kirkland Liberto requested the district allow the center to use the school auditorium for recitals.
Kirkland Liberto believes since she and her husband bought a house in the Clarion Area School District plus the fact she is a Clarion Area graduate and she was hired to choreograph the dancing for the school musical, that the Clarion Center for the Arts should be given special consideration.
The Clarion Center for the Arts was opened in 2013 and was located in 800 Center. A few years ago, the center moved to the former John Truscott Auto Sales building in Clarion Township. Since the center's building is located in the C-L school district, they can't use the Clarion Area auditorium.
Joe McDonald, who has three children who were all involved in the dance program at the Clarion Center for the Arts echoed Kirkland Liberto's request to allow the center to use the high school auditorium.
McDonald pointed out this isn't like it was in the 1980s when Clarion and Clarion-Limestone were bitter rivals. He also pointed out that many of the athletic teams at Clarion, C-L and North Clarion co-op for some sports.
McDonald also said he believes holding the recitals in the Clarion Area auditorium would boost business in the borough.
The board took no action on Kirkland Liberto's request.