RIVER FALLS – The River Falls School Board held a special meeting Monday, Aug. 9 to officially vote on whether or not masks will be required in the upcoming school year. The board voted 4-3 for …
RIVER FALLS – The River Falls School Board held a special meeting Monday, Aug. 9 to officially vote on whether or not masks will be required in the upcoming school year. The board voted 4-3 for making masks optional for this school year while acknowledging this can change if needed at any point during the year.
The meeting started with public comment and many parents and members of the community voiced their suggestions and opinions on the subject.
Board President Stacy Johnson Myers said, “Last Monday the board spent considerable time listening to members of the community and over the past 10 days or so board members have received well over 100 emails as well as petitions from community members expressing their opinions largely related to masks.”
Myers thanked the community for the feedback and constructive criticism.
“It’s been helpful for us as board members to hear your story about how the pandemic has impacted your children as reference for our decisions,” she said.
After public comment, pediatrician Dr. Amber Morgan, the district’s designated medical advisor, gave a relative background to the board based on the board’s discussion regarding COVID-19 mitigation for the upcoming school year.
Dr. Morgan began her presentation by saying, “The goal of the CDC, the AAP and probably everyone in this room is to keep our kids in school and with mitigation steps, it is more consistent than if there is no mitigation in place.”
She gave several statistics and information pertaining to COVID-19 in adolescents during the presentation. There were many reasons that she provided as to why she believes the district needs to be proactive with mitigation.
“Within the past year 45,000 children were admitted to hospitals and ICU stays due to COVID-19 and the virus has become the 10th leading cause of death in adolescence,” she said. The Delta Variant is also more contagious and may spread faster among students leading to more school shutdowns without proper mitigation.
After Dr. Morgan provided some background and insight, Superintendent Jamie Benson gave a presentation to the board and the audience as well. Benson’s presentation acknowledged that any decisions made in regard to a COVID mitigation plan are subject to change based on transmission rates and overall health and safety risks in the community at any given time.
“I want to be clear that any decisions made here today, they could change tomorrow, they could change next week or they could change a month from now. Whether you want to hear that or not, I’m pretty confident that this board will monitor the conditions and adjust accordingly and that will not be what you hear tonight, any decision is subject to potentially change,” he said.
After discussion and presentations, the board had further discussion in relation to the mitigation plan, the “Wildcat Roadmap 2.0” which is the overview of all COVID-19 mitigation plans for the 2021-22 school year.
Other aspects of the mitigation plan included contact tracing and quarantine protocols. The Wildcat Roadmap 2.0 details the mitigation plans in detail and is available through the district website. The only decision that was made is making masks optional and the rest of the mitigation approval will be discussed at the next school board meeting on Aug. 16.
After a vote the meeting continued on to other brief agenda items, such as planning upcoming committee meeting dates. The meeting adjourned and the next regular school board meeting is scheduled for Aug. 16.