Marshfield schools stay with masks
By Mike Warren
MARSHFIELD – After listening to nearly three hours of oral and written public comments, the Marshfield Board of Education took no action during its Sept. 8 meeting to undo a mask requirement put in place for the current school year.
During a meeting that was held in the Marshfield High School (MHS) Fieldhouse due to high attendance, many district residents took the opportunity to speak to six of seven board members who were present, to share their concerns and opinions regarding a mask requirement the board put in place in August, for the current school year that started Sept. 1. Among them was Kathy Rulka, who urged opponents of the masking policy to “walk with (supporters) toward a hopeful solution of reducing further COVID cases so we can keep our children, our teachers and our community healthy. And so when it comes to wearing masks to keep each other safe, if we give them the chance, children can sense this as a way they can connect to our community. It gives them a chance to contribute to the lives of others, and almost always, they rise to the occasion if we can only show them the way.”
Courtney Posteluk, a parent of two MHS graduates and a member of this year’s senior class, told the board she believes masks should be optional.
“I’m an educated person. I believe the risk doesn’t warrant the mask mandate, and the negative, long-reaching effects on our kiddos of wearing a mask for eight to ten hours a day far outweigh the risk of getting COVID. And I want to let you all know that you are not responsible for my health decisions, and the decision that I make for my family. I’m a grown adult, and so I’m capable of assessing risk in any given situation. As parents, we do this every day,” she said.
The crowd was split down the middle, with supporters of the district’s mandate themselves wearing masks, along with board members and staff present, while opponents of the requirement went maskless. Many of those against the district’s policy carried signs, which said things such as, “My children can’t breathe in school!”
Superintendent Dr. Ryan Christianson reminded the crowd that the district’s goal for the school year is to maintain a safe learning environment with as much in-person learning as possible, and “we continue to see universal indoor mask-wearing as one of our best mitigation strategies to achieve that goal”.
Dr. Christianson also said early indications are the mask requirement is keeping kids in classrooms.
“You will find that we’re at approximately 26 positive cases of COVID already, with just five days of school so far (as of Sept. 8),” he stated.
Christianson also noted that in just one school building in one day (Sept. 8), there were four student cases of COVID-19. Had the district’s mask policy not been in place, Christianson said those cases would have resulted in close to 100 student quarantines, and instead, the total was just seven.
“I don’t know what better could speak to the circumstances that we’re dealing with on why we recommend continuing with the mask order in the school district,” he added.
Board members were in agreement that the COVID numbers bear watching, and that the mask requirement and other precautions should be a monthly agenda item going forward.