By Charlie Feldman
A sizeable crowd watched the Triad School Board approve the district’s Return to Learn Health and Wellness Plan at its Monday, July 26 meeting. And some left looking dissatisfied at the result.
The meeting place was changed from the central office building to Silver Creek Elementary School to accommodate a larger audience. The Speak for Students group, held a rally, held up signs and waved at passing cars before it began.
Inside, the cafetorium began to fill with residents there to watch the meeting and support the public comment speakers, of which there were seven, one a pediatrician. Being a cafetorium, it was hard to hear what board members were saying from the stage. It was even hard to hear some of the speakers. The microphones were sending out the sound to the livestream for those viewers at home.
According to the plan, students won’t be required to wear masks except on the school bus or when directed to by an adult. Vaccination is encouraged. Those who are vaccinated won’t be sent home for contact cases.
“The Illinois Department of Public Health and the Center for Disease Control have set up clinics. “It’s parental choice,” superintendent Leigh Lewis said later. “I’m not going to say that the superintendent is encouraging. We’re providing a tier because it is a recommendation of the Illinois Department of Public Health. Especially when school is a congregate setting. When you’re a place where hundreds of people come and are in close proximity, they do recommend vaccination as a mitigation strategy.”
The plan is a flexible framework in which unexpected changes by the state could be worked in, it was explained to the crowd more than once.
But the plan as posted last Friday on the Triad website raised several questions in the minds of some parents. How can teachers decide when to make my child wear a mask? Can parents transfer their kids to classes where the teachers stance on masks is more in line with their own? The plan singles out kids with vaccinations to be better than the rest of us, doesn’t it? Aren’t you overreacting? Why isn’t the mental health of the pupils more important than making them wear masks when research shows that children can’t spread COVID-19 to adults anyway?
All wanted a choice not to wear masks at all times.
Right before the vote, a man stood near the back of the room.
“The problem I have is it seems like all the decisions are being made on this side of ‘Masks are the right way. I won’t include a few people that are crazy who don’t wear masks,’” he said.. “Where is all this fear coming from? If we’re going to keep our kids safe, I’ll take my chances keeping them safe from anxiety and depression,” he said.
These kids haven’t been in school normally for a full year, he continued. “When they come back, everybody’s going to be sick. Everybody’s going to get the flu. Everybody’s going to get colds. Everybody’s going to get sniffles and sneezes and people are going to freak out. ‘We need masks.’”
There were several comments of affirmation from those sitting nearby.
“Why are we so afraid of a virus that these kids will never know the difference?” he said. “They’re not going to transmit it to the adults. It’s statistically proven. I don’t understand. All the decisions seem to be being made from only that one point of view that masks are good but what can we do to give the people some choice? The thing I see, we’re not asking them to not wear masks…But the people who don’t want to wear the masks aren’t given the same benefit that pro-mask people are. “
The vote was held. The plan was approved.
The school board president thanked them very much and went on to the next item of business. The room grew emptier.
Both Lewis and school board president Jeff Hewitt quickly agreed that the Livestream won’t be rebroadcast for the benefit of those who were there at the meeting who couldn’t hear most of it – like people who were sitting in the front few rows. “It was livestreamed,” Lewis said.
“We’ve heard the request for more details,” Hewitt said. “That’s already in the works. So the details that maybe they didn’t get here or that were repeated several times, that’s going to be disseminated.” He said the flow chart the district made last year will be revised. “That’s going to be a lot easier for parents to look at and step through when they actually have the piece of paper in their hands.”
The next Triad School Board meeting is scheduled for Monday, August 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the central office building.