A special meeting was held at the high school on September 13 at 8:00 p.m. The meeting was a request for concerned community members to voice their thoughts and opinions on the current plans for COVID-19 precautions. When the meeting started, a brief speech asking the public to be respectful to the board as they are doing what they feel is the best plan. Each speaker was given 5 minutes of time to express their concerns.
The first speaker was Public Health Nurse Steph Welsh. She gave an update on county COVID numbers, which are down, and how we would like to keep them down. She supported the mask requirement followed by the school, masked while in motion if there are 5 or more cases in the school or 40 cases in the community, as the best and easiest way to keep school open. Currently, 30-40% of 12-year-old to 18-year-old children in Cavalier County are vaccinated. There is a lot of research working on getting the vaccine approved for under 12 years of age, but there is no set date when that will be.
The next speakers were a group of students. They stated that they will wear the masks if they have to and be respectful of the board’s decisions. They did share concerns in consistency with after-school activities and that it really didn’t make sense. The students would like it to be up to parents and students to have the choice but would also like to stay in school as well. A point was made that 5 cases out of 400 total students seemed to be a low percentage when masking would be required.
Jason Spanier has been very concerned about the board implementing masking and feels that it takes away their rights as parents to make choices their children. All parents want their children to be safe. Anytime kids go out and play they’re always at risk of harm. It should be the parent’s choice to know those risks and make their own decision. That conversation should be between parents and their children. Making the masks mandatory once numbers hit takes that conversation away that should be a parent’s choice and right. Jason also mentioned that the board need to be consistent and to lead by example. Jason, along with some attendees, would like masking to be a parent, student, or teacher choice. Abby Borchardt pointed out that a parent’s right and the role of the school board should be 2 different things. Borchardt feels implementing masks on students is an inappropriate decision for the board to make. Although opinions are different, she did mention we should still all be kind to one another.
Greg Goodman started by thanking the board and public health for all they do. Goodman is not anti-mask or anti-vaccine but believes 5 cases total from elementary, middle, and high school is too low. Changing the number to per building and possible other enhancements for vaccinated students and staff would be appropriate. Like other statements, consistency for sports and co-op was brought up as a concern.
Kassie Spanier spoke concerning the effectiveness of masks and the conflict on personal health freedom. Spanier spoke on children’s speech being affected by masking and what that may lead to. Parents are responsible for health, and the school is responsible for educating.
Whitney Bachman is fighting for the right for kids to mask or not. Young children do not know how to wear masks properly and cross contamination is inevitable. The risk in mental health has hit everyone hard with the changes COVID has brought. Don’t ask something of her child if you’re not going to follow it yourself.
Letters were also read aloud for people unable to attend. Superintendent Daren Christianson read the letters. The Langdon Area Education Association, as a whole, sent a statement of support for the mitigation strategies the board has approved to continue in-school learning and that distance learning is hard on everyone.
Lisa Schuler shared concern for the 11-year-olds and younger that don’t have the option to get vaccinated yet. Schuler believes the board has done a great job implementing standards to keep kids in school and healthy by listening to medical professionals. From teaching piano, she saw less people miss lessons last year when masks were worn than any previous years - proving masking keeps transmission down. Kids are resilient, and Schuler hasn’t heard complaints from student she has had. Schuler is sad to see the conflict like this in the community and feels this conflict is affecting kids.
Karen Kempert, emergency manager, brought an example in her letter that, though inconvenient, masks are helping. Parents should teach their children to wear masks properly. 99% of people can wear masks, and it really is the easiest, most effective thing we can do to control the spreading of COVID.
Melisssa Entzi’s letter mentioned that nowhere else in town is requiring masks. There were concerns of kids re-wearing masks and how wearing the same mask day after day was not good either.
COVID numbers are checked at noon on Fridays, and since the # of students and staff affected was below five last Friday, September 10, masks were able to be taken off while in motion, as the policy states. If the number is 5 or more positive in the school system, masks will be required while in motion. The next regularly scheduled meeting is September 20, 2021.