Parents at Adams Central Public Schools questioned the need for students to wear masks at school and the potential to add the requirement to athletes at the Adams Central Board of Education meeting Monday.
The South Heartland District Health Department recommends students at school wear face coverings when possible to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19. The final decision on those recommendations is left to each school board.
Following the quarantine of student athletes in Hastings and elsewhere, Superintendent Shawn Scott said school administrators asked for additional guidance regarding sports and other activities to avoid similar situations. He said the health department provided new guidance about athletes wearing face coverings in some situations.
Eight parents of students in the district spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Andrea Collins, a parent and substitute teacher, asked the school board to question the health department about its recommendations. She said it is normal for children to get sick and that is part of the process of building immunities. She believes parents should decide whether a student wears a mask.
“I feel sick to think that my kids are in school all day wearing a mask,” she said.
Collins said she doesn’t want to be divisive, only to speak up for her children.
“I want to be part of the conversation,” she said. “I’m advocating for the total health for our students.”
Paige Mackey, a parent, said recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House have changed and scientists can’t seem to agree on facts surrounding the coronavirus.
With the state moving to Phase 4 of its reopening, she said it doesn’t make sense to continue forcing students to wear masks when they aren’t required in the rest of the community.
“I think it’s very fitting to revisit the mandate of masks at school,” she said.
Leah Trausch, parent and wife of board vice president Chad Trausch, said students aren’t being allowed to take enough mask breaks through the day. She said putting children in quarantine takes away from valuable learning time and the health department shouldn’t be allowed to do that.
Parent Melissa Johnson said it can be hard to understand teachers trying to direct traffic while they are wearing masks. Since they are outside and generally separated from others at the time, she believes they shouldn’t wear masks so they can communicate easier with drivers.
“I think it’s dangerous that they are wearing masks in directing traffic,” she said.
She also asked the board to look at finding a way to bring back the salad bar for school lunches, which offers some of the most nutritious options for students.
Parent Inde Wissing said there needs to be consistency between the elementary school and the high school. She has a student in each and finds that there are differences between what is required at each.
She said teachers and administrators are using fear of spreading the disease to encourage students to wear masks. She said the students shouldn’t be made to feel responsible if someone else gets sick. When the school sent out a message about a staff member at the elementary school testing positive for the disease, she worried that the students would feel responsible.
“We need to be realistic about what we’re asking of our students,” Wissing said.
Parent Tim Buchholz said he doesn’t believe that masks are effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. He questioned whether forcing students to wear masks is having a long-term impact on their physical or emotional health.
“I think a lot of it is fear-driven,” he said.
The health department uses contact tracing to determine quarantine recommendations when a person tests positive for COVID-19. In a classroom where students and teachers were wearing face coverings, a quarantine would be less likely.
Board President Dave Johnson said the overall goal is to keep kids in school. He thanked the parents for providing their thoughts and explained that a committee that is focusing on the school’s coronavirus response will meet Tuesday to discuss any changes.
“We take all the things you say very seriously,” he said.
Board member Greg Mucklow said they know a lot more about the disease than they did six weeks ago, but the goal posts are constantly moving.
“We’re trying to be as flexible as we can,” he said. “Being stuck at home is not easy on our kids either.”