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Torn by mask mandate, Palisades seeks unity


At its Sept. 9 public school board meeting, postponed from the Sept. 1 ravaging of the area by the remains of Hurricane Ida, the Palisades School District moved to table a motion to approve a proposed revised health and safety plan that incorporates a masking directive in line with the new mandate from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Struggling to maintain public school policies and procedures, and parliamentary order, in the face of vigorous organized resistance to the measure from dozens of members of their community at the meeting, and answering pleas from two board members for more time to deliberate, the board moved the matter to its already scheduled Sept. 15 public meeting.
Instead of the usual location at Palisades High School, that meeting was to be held at Palisades Middle School, which was also to be the site of a 9/11 20th anniversary memorial program on the same day.
In the interim, a 25th anniversary program for the Palisades Community Foundation was to be held in Pipersville. Other members of the community suggested those two events as unifying opportunities for a community torn by the masking controversy.
Before and after the tabling move, the board heard strident public comments denouncing the masking mandate, which has been presented by their state as a public health guideline based on epidemiological science. Speakers in opposition rejected that science as contrary to their own version of what was going on with the virus, using terminology including “antibodies” and “immunity,” and asking “when is the insanity and absurdity going to stop?”

They also emphasized their opposition to the management of the pandemic crisis by their governments, which they characterized as an attempt to take away their freedom, and a threat to the well-being of their children, while public health and hospital officials express grave concern about the sufficient availability of pediatric and other hospital beds.
In a point of particular emphasis, speakers in opposition challenged the board members to see approval of the proposed plan as a grave matter, with one summarizing that “the time for talking is over.”
During discussion within the board of the specific content of the proposed health and safety plan revision, much attention was focused on the procedure for determining eligibility for medical exemptions from the masking order.
The complete proposed health and safety plan revision, as well as a recording of the Sept. 9 meeting, are available on the district website.