Mask wearing and communication gaps take center stage at Berkshire BOE meeting


Masks and a call for more inclusiveness and transparency competed in time at the Berkshire Schools Education Council meeting on July 12.

Masks and a call for more inclusiveness and transparency competed in time at the Berkshire Schools Education Council meeting on July 12.

A crowd of around 30 patiently waited for the day-to-day business of the board until it was time for public comments towards the end of the meeting and applauded several speakers who expressed their views.

Before opening the floor, Board Chairman John Manfredi urged speakers to be respectful and give him direct comments.

“There was a lot of talk and allegation made at the last board meeting,” said Superintendent John Stoddard. “We fully support and trust our staff. We all have the best interests of our children. We understand the differences that we must overcome. Staff are willing and able to move the process forward and bring the community as a whole together. “

Marilyn Percic said the district must grant students their rights guaranteed by the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, especially with regard to wearing a mask.

“Masks are ineffective and in many ways very harmful,” she said. “It is a myth that masks prevent viruses from spreading.”

Additionally, masks can lead to reduced oxygen availability for the wearer, she said.

“They’re disgusting. They’re dirty. They don’t work,” Percic said, adding that forcing students and staff to wear masks is a violation of their constitutional rights and bodily autonomy.

Percic said the size of a COVID-19 virus is well below a micron, and masks cannot catch all harmful viruses.

“It’s like throwing sand on a chain link fence,” she says.

Percic said the masks trap bacteria and cited the Center for Disease Control as saying they do not cause reduced transmission of the virus.

However, according to the CDC, the masks trap the respiratory droplets that carry the virus. The federal agency’s five key prevention strategies to reduce COVID-19 in schools first include proper mask wearing, as well as physical distancing; hand washing and respiratory etiquette; clean and maintain sound facilities; and contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine.

“Universal and correct use of masks should be required (and) physical distance should be maximized to the extent possible,” the CDC says. “All prevention strategies offer some level of protection, and multi-level strategies implemented at the same time offer the highest level of protection. Schools should adopt prevention strategies whenever possible – a multi-step approach is essential. “

Stoddard confirmed on July 13 that students are required to wear masks in the final school year, but unless there are health mandates in the fall, masks will be optional.

On the LGBTQ + front, a high school student spoke up.

Jackson Hare, founder of the Berkshire Schools Gender Sexuality Alliance Club, said his goal is to make Berkshire Schools a safe place where LBGTQ + students are accepted and respected.

“I know this group is controversial,” said Hare, who spoke at the BOE meeting on June 14.

He said bigotry and ignorance seem worse in this area than in other areas.

“We would like something more than reviews for what we’ve done so far,” he said.

At the June 14 meeting, some parents said the GSA club event was promoted by some teachers and staff.

An online petition, launched by the “Berkshire Strong” group, has counted nearly 200 signatures.
“We believe that the traditional values ​​and integrity of our community should be respected in our local schools,” the petition says. “We believe that professional school staff should be neutral and that students and parents should not be aware of their teacher’s personal views on religion, politics, social or sexual ideology.”

Scott Reeves, a member of Berkshire Strong, said the organization has no intention of shutting down or hating anyone, but he feels Christian values ​​are under attack.

“Don’t tell my children what moral they should have,” he said. “We need to have face to face discussions. Hatred will eat away at you. We should not be enemies.

Rachel Hutchinson said parents should have the primary role in their children’s education and she opposed the family’s dismissal.

No one in the school system wanted to switch to virtual learning due to COVID-19 issues last year, said Nicole Mantell, a community resident and mother of four.

She referred to the memorandum of understanding between the administration and the union that virtual learning would take place if the district had a particularly high number of COVID-19.

Stoddard said the district had only briefly switched to virtual education and the memorandum of understanding has now expired.

“We were in school more than any other (district) in the county,” he said. “This is not part of the negotiations. There is nothing in (the negotiations) to get us back to this point. We want to get back to normal as much as possible. This has been fixed and there is water under the bridge. We want children in school and we don’t want them to wear masks. “

District teacher Hannah Bomback, recently elected president of the 100 teachers union, said there had been misunderstandings between the community and the school.

“I believe that many of these issues will be resolved with transparency and communication,” she said, noting that the negotiations will be aimed at improving families and moving forward and working together.

“That’s the intention – to allow us to thrive in our community and not push any programs,” Bomback said. “We have a lot of things to do. We have a lot of potential right now. “


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