The Ramsey County Public Health issued new guidance to school districts returning to in-person learning that schools should require masks to be worn by all individuals while indoors, regardless of their vaccination status to reduce health risks.
This announcement prompted 30 parents to express their concerns during the public forum at the last Mounds View School Board meeting.
Aleta Schulte of North Oaks was one parent who spoke against wearing masks in school.
“I have two kids that attend Mounds View High School. The COVID mandates that have been and continue to plague our lives are not based on real data and science. Data is being manipulated to create fear. This has created ‘casedemic,’ not an epidemic. On July 21, 2021, the CDC admitted that the PCR test does not differentiate between SAR-CoV-2 and influenza virus and announced that labs should stop using the tests,” Schulte said.
“If the test is not valid or reliable now, you should stop the use of it immediately. Nobody should be tested with it because it does not give any accurate results. I don't want to hear the school district telling families to get their students tested, not for any reason. Don't send test kits home. Asymptomatic people don't have or spread COVID. Routine testing is not recommended. Parents just say no, do no more testing, (and) don't inflate the numbers. They use those numbers to shut down our schools, limit access and try to impose mandates.”
Laura Al-Ejeilat, of North Oaks addressed the board as a parent, a pediatrician, and the wife of a ICU doctor who she said has seen much death and suffering this year. She spoke in favor of wearing masks in schools.
“I think we should all agree that our children need in-person learning this year. This is achieved by masks because it keeps our children safe and it helps lessen the amount of time we are spending in quarantines. As parents, we all love our children and we all want the best for them,” she said. “The new variants are showing to be affecting children more severely. So the way I see it, if the mask requirement decision is the wrong decision, all we have lost is the price of a mask. On the other hand, if we don't require masks in school, and that decision is wrong, we could be putting our children's lives at stake.”
Among the parents who spoke, it was split fairly evenly between those for and against wearing masks. One parent said he was going to homeschool his kids; another wanted distance learning options; a few others wanted to know what the long-term plan was if a COVID-19 outbreak happens within the school district.
After the open forum at the Aug. 17 school board meeting, Weinhagen made a comment saying that he doesn't know the right answer, but the board does not manage and govern the school district by the voices of public opinion.
“At the last board meeting in June, I reminded the community that our board only employs one employee, and that is the superintendent. We work in partnership with the superintendent to manage the policies and financial health of the district and work as partners as he and his team carry out the professional work of managing our school district,” Weinhagen said.
“Since Ramsey County Public Health uses the term ‘require,’ that is the guidance he (Superintendent Chris Lennox) needs to follow, and that's the guidance provided by our legal counsel. Similarly, the board has been advised that we should not go against the guidance, to avoid any legal or fiduciary risk. If we don't follow the guidance, it could be used against the district as evidence that it did not use reasonable care.”
Other board actions:
• Bernice Humnick, executive director of business services, presented an enrollment update for the 2021-22 school year. Current enrollment projections indicate 11,556 students are expected to attend Mounds View Public Schools this fall. This would represent 10 more students than last fall. Humnick said all enrollment data will be monitored through the start of the school year.
• The school board adopted the District Operational Plan (DOP), a series of goals and related activities on which the superintendent and cabinet will focus their work throughout the school year. It is directly related to the district's vision and to the school board's strategic directions for the year. The DOP is developed by the superintendent and cabinet, and has been previously discussed with the school board at work sessions and board meetings. For the complete DOP, go to https://www.moundsviewschools.org/dop202122.
The next Mounds View School Board meeting is at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 21, at the District Center, 4570 Victoria St. N. in Shoreview.
Noelle Olson is a staff writer for Press Publications. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-407-1229.