To the Keystone School District

By John Colantonio

Cranberry

To the school board and residents of the Keystone School District:

We the undersigned are residents, former residents, employees, students of the Keystone School District who over the years have come to love the district and the greater Knox community.

We are deeply concerned about the recent protests regarding masks in our schools. We understand parents are equally concerned and are protesting out of love for their children.

While this is love and concern is understandable and expected, it may be clouding their judgment.

We have heard the call for parents to apply for exemptions based on either religious views and/or health concerns.

As such, we offer the following:

One: A pastor was asked by members of his congregation if Christians should be able to claim religious exemption when public health is in jeopardy. He pondered the question, "What does my faith in Jesus Christ exempt me from?" and produced the following:

"My faith in Jesus exempts me from:

One: Putting my wants above the needs of others. "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others," Philippians 2:3,4

Two: Claiming my freedom in Christ as liberty to act without responsibility. "You my brothers and sisters were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself." Galatians 5:13,14

Three: Refusing to protect the most vulnerable in our midst. "Truly I tell you, whatever you do for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40"

Therefore, according to this pastor, "My "religious exemption" requires I receive the COVID vaccination to safeguard life, and wear a mask to care for my neighbor."

If we can fully embrace this message of Christian love and care for one another then the only question remaining is that of the science driving the mandates.

We have to go to the most credible sources such as the Centers for Disease control, the World Health Organization, National Institutes of Health, epidemiologists and infectious disease experts from Johns Hopkins University, the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, UPMC Healthcare, Allegheny Healthcare network and an overwhelming majority of medical professionals that all encourage and support masks as a means of defeating the COVID virus.

We acknowledge and accept the notion there will be truly legitimate exceptions for either medical or emotional reasons, but these exemptions should be the exception not the rule.

Additionally, any emotional scarring that parents may fear for their children may be allayed by the parents having an open, honest discussion with their children. Tell them what is happening is not fair, it may require a small sacrifice on their part but it certainly not their fault.

Tell them in times of war, and we are at war with this virus, it is our responsibility as citizens of the United States and as Christians to take whatever steps necessary to defeat our common enemy.

And, most importantly, be a positive role model for them in this time of adversity.

When we consider our parents and grandparents fought world wars to defeat a common enemy putting their very lives at risk, simply wearing a mask, and receiving another vaccine in a lengthy list of vaccines that children already get for the same purpose of protecting the greater community and themselves, seems like such a small sacrifice to make.

Those who oppose these simple measures need to realize the longer students and others fail to comply with these measures, the more likely it is going to be that teachers along with other school personnel may contract the disease leading to even more problems with staffing.

We the people are the government. And, as citizens, we have responsibilities that come along with all the rights that we take for granted.

Firstly, among those is the responsibility to protect the general welfare, in this case, the safety, health, and welfare of our children and the greater community and, secondly, the responsibility to work for the common good.

We would like the school board to know there are many people in the community who do support and agree with the guidelines as established by the CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health even in this highly fluid environment and have no desire whatsoever to see the board placed in this highly tenuous predicament.

There simply should be no question as to the appropriate course of action.

Our hope is that we will come together as a community to take whatever steps needed that will allow our community to not only survive this pandemic but to come out on the other side stronger and better than ever.n

Editor's note: This letter was also signed by: Paulette Colantonio, Ben Colantonio, James H. and Pat McConnell, Brittany Caufield, Shayla Chapman, Sonny and Janice Cicero, Steve Condon, Chris Condon, John and Kim Daugherty, Matt Friedlund, Thomas and Tamalyn Goble, Greg and Linda Heath, Jared and Courtney Heuer, Jillian Love, Brittany Mays, Marcella McConnell, Michael McConnell, Thomas Mould, Margaret Patton, Laurie and Mike Shay, Gary and Lois Steele, Lois Steele, Bruce Turk, Sara Weaver, Phil and Barbara Witkowski, Brock Witkowski, Aimee, Dylan and Shayla Ziegler.

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