Masks arouse strong feelings
By SUSAN RUMBLE
Special to The Press
Anticipating a large crowd, Parkland officials had the Aug. 17 board meeting in the high school auditorium instead of the usual, smaller room at the administration building.
The topic of masks has generated strong feelings on both sides of the issue and prompted parents and other interested people to voice their opinions before the school board in the past.
On this occasion, security personnel were on hand to respond to dangerous behavior which might be brought on by heightened emotions but apparently they were not needed.
Although there was shouting, booing and waving of signs during the meeting, everyone who wanted to express an opinion had three minutes to do so.
The Health and Safety Plan for the 2021-22 school year recommends individuals who are not vaccinated wear face coverings.
The question on many parents’ minds is whether the mask status will move from recommended to required.
The plan was prepared by a team of 30 Parkland administrators with advice from the CDC, the state Departments of Health and Education, and St. Luke’s University Health Network.
Board President David Hein announced the public comment time would begin at 8 p.m., before the regular meeting agenda.
About 30 individuals stepped forward to talk about the issue, some in favor of requiring masks, others vehemently opposed.
Amy Ensinger was the first person to speak.
She expressed approval for all the board and district have done during the past 18 months in response to the pandemic.
She continued with some updated thoughts.
“In recent weeks and months, we’ve seen children do get sick from the virus. Masking is what keeps the virus from killing our children. Require masking K-12,” Ensinger said.
Jasmine Sullivan had an opposing view.
“I would like the choice to masking my kids. There’s no factual reason to mandate it. Our children are safe from COVID,” Sullivan said.
Melissa Uff agreed.
“My job as a parent is to make a judgment for my child. I will not put a mask on my son,” Uff declared.
A common theme of those opposing masks was the idea of freedom of choice.
“The loud minority has an obsession of choice over responsibility,” David Ellowitch stated.
He noted major health organizations are unified on the benefits of universal masking.
Dr. Audrey Ettinger recommended taking the advice of experts.
“Masks work. They are the best hope of keeping our schools open,” Ettinger said.
Chris Holdridge spoke up for his 10-year-old daughter.
“This is not a political or rights issue, I support masks,” Holdridge said.
Public comments continued for 90 minutes.
Opponents of masks reiterated their desire for choice. Those in favor of a mandate emphasized the safety of children and staff and the ability to have five days a week in-person school.
No action was taken on the matter.