There are two things I think everyone should know about from last night’s school board meeting:
Optional Mask Policy for Next School Year
The board unanimously approved an optional mask policy for the upcoming school year. Parents will be able to choose whether or not their child wears a mask in school. The schools will operate as normally as possible, including the resumption of regular gym classes, library access, small-group instruction, access to playground supplies at recess, cafeterias without plexiglass dividers, etc. At the same time, the district will try to minimize unnecessary extended close contact between people during the school day, and masks will continue to be mandatory on school buses in compliance with a federal mandate that covers all public transportation.
I voted in favor of the policy despite my misgivings about the relatively low vaccination rate in the community, the lack of vaccine availability for those under 12 years old, the rapid spread of more contagious variants, and the updated CDC recommendation that all unvaccinated people should remain masked. Charting the best path forward has always involved a difficult balancing of different needs. I remain convinced that, with the widespread availability of vaccines and greater knowledge of how the virus spreads and who is most at risk, the benefits of the optional mask policy outweigh the risks. The disruption to instruction, damage to socio-emotional learning, and the distraction and discomfort of masking and social distancing are real dangers in our schools too. I recognize that there are good arguments on different sides of this issue, and believe that the optional mask policy is the best plan for the fall right now.
Bullying and Disruption
Unfortunately, a number of people used last night’s school board to share their views about masks and vaccines by yelling, name-calling, threatening board members, and spreading misinformation. They disrupted the meeting several times by shouting comments and making snide remarks while the board tried to discuss the mask policy. And most troubling, they then waited in the parking lot to harass and insult board members as they tried to get to their cars at the end of the night.
This kind of bullying and disruption has no place in our community. Students caught acting this way in school are disciplined, and rightly so. I’m angered by the bullying and attempts at intimidation. And I’m saddened that adults and parents would model this kind of behavior. That people have strong beliefs and emotions about how to respond to a global pandemic is understandable, because the stakes are high. But resorting to shouting and schoolyard taunts, no matter what the motivation, does not make our district a better place for anyone.