CHESTERLAND, Ohio — Monday night’s West Geauga Board of Education meeting is a sign of the times as parents showed up to West Geauga Middle School in droves to voice their opinions on the district’s mask mandate.
The parents held signs regarding the district’s mask policy with messages like ’Masks on Kids is Child Abuse,’ ‘Facts over Fear,’ ‘If it’s Masks you Hate, Vaccinate,’ and ’Save Our Students, Mandate Masks.’
There was also a heavy police presence to make sure the large divide among the community members stayed peaceful.
And, perhaps, even clearer than a message on a sign, was the divide among the community.
The district’s policy is that all students and staff have to wear masks until October 22. According to its website, the district will revisit the mask requirement around that time and determine whether or not to extend it.
But that didn’t stop parents from taking the time during the public comment portion of the meeting to voice their support or dissent against the policy.
One parent thanked the board members for the mask mandate.
“These culture wars always seem to fall in the laps of our educators and school administrators. The latest iteration of this, sadly, is the nationwide assault on schools and school boards by a minority of people currently hell-bent on fighting against common-sense mitigation efforts to control a global pandemic,” she said. “The facts and the evidence show that we need masks more than ever. Indoor masking continues to be supported and recommended by all trusted institutions, associations, and leaders in health care.”
Other parents echoed her sentiment.
“I truly don’t understand how anyone can want our students to go maskless right now. If they do, and COVID is diagnosed in their child’s class, they will have to quarantine,” said a parent of elementary-aged kids to the board.
But several other parents accused the board of spreading misinformation and fear-mongering.
“You don’t tell them that this is 99.6% likely to not even have any symptoms and 99.8% likely to survive if they have no underlying issues,” said a local parent. “You work for us. We don’t work for you. You were voted in and you can be voted out.”
According to the Ohio Department of Health’s COVID-19 School Dashboard, only four students in West Geauga’s district are positive for COVID19. West Geauga board members ended public comment by citing the number of cases and said the reason the district’s numbers are low is that they have a mask mandate.
“We still want the same things I stressed in our last board meeting, to keep our schools open providing in-person instruction for a maximum number of days, educating the maximum number of students,” said a board member to the crowd.