Photo by Joselyn King – Ohio County Schools Deputy Superintendent Rick Jones briefs school board members on bond construction projects during Monday’s board meeting.

Ohio County Board of Education member Molly Aderholt hopes state lawmakers will take a stand and ban mask mandates in West Virginia schools.

The West Virginia Legislature is currently considering House Bill 4071, the “Parents and Students Health Rights Act.” The bill seeks to end mask requirements and restrict COVID-19 testing requirements and quarantines in West Virginia schools.

The measure is currently before the House Judiciary Committee.

Board member Grace Norton, who joined Monday’s meeting by phone, told board members the legislation is something they should keep a close eye on.

Aderholt said Monday she would like to see the Legislature act sooner rather than later and end terms.

“Hopefully we can reach a point in the very near future where our kids don’t have to wear them (masks) and worry about the damage that might happen,” Aderholt said. “I hope the legislature will. If not, we’ll come back here to talk about it.

Board chairman David Croft noted that talking about mask mandates is a “never-ending discussion.” He said the council is monitoring the bill because the legislature could remove the burden of determining mask mandates from the hands of county school boards.

He reported that the number of reported COVID cases in Ohio County has steadily declined over the past week.

“We hope this trend continues,” Croft said. “He seems to be staying constant over the past few days.

“It’s good to see that statistically there are fewer people in pain – more people in pain, but they seem to be in less pain.”

Monday’s board meeting was scheduled to take place at Wheeling Park High School, giving board members the opportunity to tour completed renovations at the facility. But, late last week, the meeting was moved back to the board office in Elm Grove.

“The fire marshal just didn’t feel comfortable letting us do tours with the public until he had signed off on everything,” Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones said. “There are just a few things that need to be done before he can do that.”

Croft asked if it would be possible to reschedule the February 14 board meeting for WPHS, but Jones said he thought later in the month would be better. The February 14 meeting will be at 6 p.m. at the council office, 2203 National Road, Elm Grove.

The board now plans to hold its February 28 meeting at the WPHS. Tours would begin at 4:30 p.m., followed by the regular board meeting at 6 p.m.

Croft said he and Aderholt worked with the Wheeling Park Commission to reach a property use agreement, and they expect to present that agreement soon to the school board. The property on which much of the new WPHS sports field is located is owned by the Wheeling Park Commission.

“This will strengthen the relationship we have with Oglebay regarding the space we use for the foreseeable future,” he told the board.

Croft said the Wheeling Park Commission “has been generous thus far” and that both sides want to reach an agreement in the best interest of all.

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