INDIANA — On Monday evening, the Indiana Area School District Board of Directors convened a committee meeting to hear public comments on a week-old masking mandate for district buildings, and on other district business.
Few wore masks. About 30 citizens attended. Nine responded to the chairman’s invitation for commenters to alternate between pro- and anti-masking remarks. He began with an invitation to conservative activist Tammy G. Curry.
Commenters abided by the chairman’s request for civil discourse. The comment period lasted 35 minutes. Video of the meeting will be posted on the school district’s YouTube channel, a district technician said Monday evening.
A school district health-and-safety plan is required by the Pennsylvania Department of Health by July 30.
Two anti-masking speakers were approached at Monday’s meeting for copies of their remarks. They declined. Two pro-masking speakers accepted the invitation. Their prepared remarks are published below.
The HawkEye invites comments from interested citizens. Comments may be submitted at the end of this article. Editor David Loomis can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
— David Loomis
The school board has more options
By Lisa H. Price
I speak as a parent of rising 2nd and 5th graders who are not yet able to be vaccinated.
Today the American Academy of Pediatrics issued their recommendations for schools re-opening in the fall. They indicate that schools can safely conduct face-to-face instruction with all children when students and staff wear masks.
The best way for us to reduce the number of student and staff quarantines is for students and staff to wear masks inside. Outside does not seem to be as much of a problem.
If the district does not have the stamina to continue to follow recommendations of entities with appropriate expertise such as the AAP or the CDC, then I ask that the board consider what options will be made available for families who want schools to be a safe place for their children.
You have the IDEAL+ program, and that’s an option. You may need to communicate with parents about what that really looks like for K-5 students. Parents I talk to don’t seem to know.
Another option would be to have a classroom at each grade level designated as a masking classroom. Parents I have spoken to have indicated they would be interested in this type of option. Some prefer this to be a “masked until vaccinated” classroom.
Last week several parents advocated for a survey. A survey could be helpful to know how many parents would want a masked classroom option, an online option, or perhaps be unwilling to send their children to our district schools if masking is not in place.
I APPRECIATE the board for the impossible situation they are in, for each of them and their hard work
I believe everyone has to make the decision about vaccination for themselves – I would not push that on someone
But for our children under 12, we don’t even have that option yet.
Yes, parents have a right to make their own decisions. But your decision affects my children’s level of risk. This to me is very important because your decision to not put on your own seat belt ultimately affects you not me. But your decision to not put a mask on your child does indeed affect my children who can’t be vaccinated yet.
There are options for people if they are having difficulty with headaches, like the clear face shields
OTHER SPEAKERS this evening have referred to a recent JAMA Pediatrics “research letter.” It was not a peer-reviewed journal article, and it was not credible. It was pulled after researchers posed credible criticisms of the methods and conclusions, and the authors were not adequately able to defend their “letter” and the methods/conclusions posed.
The problem with a “letter” is that it doesn’t go through the same rigorous peer review as submitted articles do. All research is not created equal. This is an example of what happens when people do their own research on the internet and are not trained to evaluate the credibility of what they read.
I HOPE that our community would be equally invested in issues related to curriculum and instruction. Last week and today, access to dual enrollment is on the agenda – this is the kind of important issue we need to be spending our time on to ensure our schools meet the needs of all our students.
Lisa H. Price, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Communication Disorders, Special Education and Disability Services, College of Education and Communications, at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
The issue is about more than masks
By Timothy J. Runge
Please know that I am not an expert on infectious diseases, COVID-19, or appropriate mitigation procedures. Thus, I am speaking as a community member with as much expertise as just about everyone else in this room, with apologies to those present tonight with advanced medical or virology training.
COVID is real. Its destruction is real. My own family continues to deal with the long-term effects of COVID, so this is personal to us.
The mask issue has obviously resulted in some in our community taking a very strong and vocal position on whether to wear or not wear masks.
I implore everyone in this community, regardless of your position on masks and other mitigation procedures, to respect the impossible choice our administration and board has to make. This is their Sophie’s choice. In this situation, no decision is perfect. The decision will undoubtedly upset some.
But I pray that everyone who speaks tonight is respectful of each other and courteous with others’ opinions, especially those with whom we do not agree. This is how a civil society deals with disagreements.
And most importantly, our children are watching and learning from our behavior. Let us model compassion, grace, sympathy, empathy, and respect as we discuss and advise our leaders in this impossible decision. Our administration and board members have already done that this evening. We should as well.
Our children are watching.
Regardless of the recommendation of this committee tonight and our full board’s action next week, I hope plans are being made to accommodate the needs of any student who – for whatever reason – does not feel comfortable attending face-to-face next year. I suspect that regardless of the final decision, masks mandated, not mandated, or optional, there will be a group of students Indiana may lose to cyber charter schools, homeschooling, and other non-public options.
Surely this Board can make high-quality synchronous and/or asynchronous options available to everyone. Our educators, the best in the area, proved as much last year. And with appropriate resources, they can do so again.
THEREFORE, I hope that in the immediate follow-up to whatever decision is made about masking and mitigation procedures, the administration and board move quickly to plan for supporting the needs of any student and their family who opts out of face-to-face instruction. To me, the decision about synchronous/asynchronous options will have the greatest impact on our children and is deserving of more discussion and planning than whether or not to require masks.
Timothy J. Runge is a professor in the Psychology Department, College of Education and Communications, at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.