Eureka School Board
February 16th, 2021 Public Meeting
By Sally Durham

The Town of Eureka School Board Public Meeting was held February 16, 2021 to decide whether the schools in town would continue to wear masks after the Governor rescinded Statewide Mask Mandate.

The special meeting was the best attended event in recent School Board history with people contributing in person, online, by text, by email, and by phone. Arguments for and against the mandatory masks were given, complete with scientific studies and statistics supporting both sides. After 2 ½ hours, the Board voted 5 to 1 in favor of the following decision:

Students and staff will continue to wear masks until all teachers have had an opportunity to receive the vaccination. (Once the opportunity has been given, the mask mandate will end, whether or not staff avails themselves of that opportunity. Classrooms will be covered, giving teachers the ability to get the shots.) School administrators may make modifications in individual classrooms, and masks will be required in all common areas.

For an overview of the discussion, a link to the meeting has been provided with meeting minutes listed below.

0:00 Sound checks, hand out documents, etc.

7:08 Pledge of Allegiance

7:30 Rules of the meeting, acknowledgement of people attending by email, phone, and online as well as in person

8:48 Re: mask mandate, this decision was the most discussed mandate in the school superintendent’s history. His recommendation is continue as the CDC recommends. Masks should be worn until all teachers have been given the opportunity to receive the vaccination. Motion was seconded and discussion began.

11:30 public comment- against- Speaker cited physiological responses to mask wearing, political use of fear, skewed numbers in medical reporting.

14:52 public comment-against – Speaker has children in school, doesn’t want them sucking CO2 all day.

15:36 Public comment- against- If staff members or others that want to wear a mask, we respect their decision. For those who don’t, we need to respect that decision too.

16:24 Public Comment- For – a teacher with health problems that feels safer with masks until he’s had the opportunity to get the vaccine.

19:34 Public Comment – Objects to children being asked to wear a mask during school to protect teachers when teachers aren’t wearing masks outside of school. Some schools ban visitors to sports, others don’t. If there are rules, they need to be for everyone and they need to be enforced.

22:51 Public Comment- People don’t use masks right to prevent disease How often are they being washed, who’s touched them, etc. They’re not preventing disease and COVID has been politicized.

25:57- Public Comment- Kids shouldn’t be rebreathing CO2, Florida numbers are better than California even though their rules have been more relaxed. Against forcing masks that cannot block the disease. If you want it, do it, but don’t force it on others.

28:50 Public Comment- Speaker says data supports the fact that masks cut down on the spread of the virus. We can educate people on how to wear masks effectively.

33:05 Zoom mtg issues and tech difficulties

34:50 Public Comment- Speaker gave death rate percentages, this disease isn’t killing healthy people. Aerosols penetrate masks per CDC. 85% of infected people wore masks. Masks are symbolic but ineffective according to stated studies. COVID is too small to be stopped by cloth masks. Long term use of masks encourages pneumonia because it creates an environment that promotes bacterial growth.

41:40 Public Comment- Speaker says science refutes information about masks being ineffectual. Government recommends continuing mask to prevent liability cases. Wearing a mask is still the CDC recommendation. They could be declared grossly negligent and it puts school at financial risk.

45:42 Public Comment- teacher- students are amazing. Enforcement of the mask mandate isn’t a problem. Teachers need the support.

49:30 Public Comment- In-person classes are best for everyone. Teachers signed a contract saying they’d follow CDC guidelines. If the only way to keep everyone at school in person is to wear masks, that’s the most logical path.

53:01 Public Comment – Two narratives exist with studies for both sides. Based on research, speaker is not worried about public health. The job is to train up young people to research and come to decisions themselves. School Board shouldn’t decide for the community. Families should decide for themselves. The CDC doesn’t make community desires irrelevant.

58:00 Public Comment – Liberty and Justice for all. We can argue the science all day long. Mask mandates take away liberty.

1:00:00 Public Comment- teacher- I can’t maintain 6 feet social distancing and teach. If you take away masks, I’ll want to work from home. Family in the hospital. Protect me until vaccinated.

1:01:10 Public Comment- Nurse- Doctors she works with say they’re more concerned with mask wearing than COVID-19. Rebreathing germs all day long is unhealthy. Speaker called State Capitol and confirmed schools are covered and can’t be sued. Treating patients for breathing caused by masks, not covid.

1:04:00 Public Comment – Just moved to the area. It took her kids days to make friends because they couldn’t connect with mask on. One child comes home with headaches everyday. Daughter couldn’t go to school because mask made cold sores spread and hurt.

1:06:56 Public Comment – Speaker says kids are lucky to go to school. There’s a lot of confusion in data. Kids come to school with active cases. You can’t count on families not to send their kids. Protect our vulnerable. Businesses are shutting down because of closed borders. Masks don’t infringe on freedom. This is a global problem.

1:10:10 Public Comment – student- I don’t see how its working. People still get sick. I can’t breathe when I sing in choir, can’t connect, I don’t understand why we have to wear masks at school.

1:11:25 Public Comment – Science on both sides, but true immunity comes through exposure. MRNA vaccines have never been tested before. It’s an experiment. Most people heal without intervention. Masks are against OSHA regulations. Causes lung disease. 3rd cause of death in America is medical malpractice.

1:15:18 Public Comment – student - It’s your body, no one can tell you what to do. One mask was supposed to protect us, now we’re supposed to wear two?

1:16:55 Public Comment- school employee – child comes home with headaches. Taking more drugs to deal with headaches. We need to open up more options for both sides at the school.

1:19:03 Public Comment – student – my job is to protect others. Let’s be a team and take care of everyone. Shouldn’t we be making everyone safe on campus?

1:20:44 – Email Comments being made available, some are redacted because Superintendent did not get permission to share. He did share the Teacher’s Union Poll:

74% teachers asked for masks

15% Techer asked no masks

The rest are undecided

1:22:50 Tech issues

1:23:29 Public Comment – 9th grade class rep – The majority of votes say people are ok to keep masks till sports are over, want to protect teachers and ability to go to school.

1:24:30 Public Comment – Alternative should be to allowed home school for those who have a problem with the masks.

1:25:25 Public comment- son in 9th grade and he didn’t vote.

1:26:03 Super – No one argues that face to face is best. Teachers are the heroes and put themselves at risk. Staff members concerned about their safety. 3 teachers have had shots, 50 requested. Like to keep mandate until those 50 have had a chance to get the vaccine. School legal says they’re not protected. Teachers signed they would They have a moral and legal obligation to protect teachers. He has no choice. Recommendation stands to keep mandate.

1:31:42 Board Comments – Keeping kids in school important. Teachers would take a bullet for their students. We need to protect teachers and then we revisit the topic after the vaccinations.

1:33:17 Board Comments – They vaccinated 180 out of 2000. Vaccinations were delayed due to the weather. Teachers prioritized by health and age. Should provide N95 masks for teachers.

1:37:53 Board Comments – Regardless of his personal opinion, we have to work for the students and teachers. The end state for the mask mandate should be when the teachers that want a vaccine get one. Then we need to revisit the verbiage requiring teachers to follow CDC Guidelines. Forcing people after they’ve had an opportunity to get vaccinated is wrong.

1:40:45 – Public Comment – 100% of vaccine brought to Eureka was used.

1:41:50 Board Comment – Once teachers are given an opportunity, if they pass it up, that’s on them. We’ll cover their classes so they can make the appointments, otherwise this could drag on forever.

1:44:00 Amended motions discussed, limitations and end game

1:47:44 Board Comment – My kid suffers at home. She needs school. I don’t want the school to close. They’re just asking for a little more time. I don’t want to wear the mask, but my daughter is ok with it. The masks are working. Decision is until next board meeting, not permanent. March 15 Board will have update.

1:52:35 Board Comment – I don’t like the mask. We are fortunate to have open school. Mental health issues related to staying home. We have a responsibility to create safety in work environment for students and staff. Continue mandate till everyone can be satisfied with their health choice.

1:56:43 Public Comment- can we amend the motion to include the end strategy?

Motion is reread. Wording discussed. N95 masks discussed for high-risk teachers, discarded as giving preferential treatment to some teachers over others. Letter drafted to make teachers a higher priority for vaccines.

2:02:06- Motion- masks should be mandated until all teachers who want the vaccine have an opportunity to get it. Meeting Mar 15 when they revisit the discussion.

Public comment- You can’t include an end game for a virus that mutates.

No end date will be included in motion.

2:04:00 Board Member requests amendment allowing teacher discretion on mask mandate in their own classroom. Good compromise.

2:06:29- Superintendent- we need to discuss the amendment with the principal, we can’t make that decision before Mar 15, at the regular Board Meeting.

The vote has to be on the motion as originally stated.

2:11:00 Vote cast on original motion. 3 voted yes, 4 opposed. motion failed.

Motion suggested: amending original motion to allow individual administrations to make decisions for their teachers. Then teachers, with principal’s permission, can have discretion in their own classrooms with the end date being when all teachers have opportunity for vaccine.

Another suggestion: Everything stays the same till after spring break.

Board comment - People are already taking mask breaks and not wearing them at PE or the lunch table.

2:22:00 Public Comment – The amendment sounds like it is in direct conflict with the current Union agreement. Teachers are a collective bargaining group with the same contract for all teachers.

Proposed amendment: “Admin may make modifications in individual classrooms, and masks will be required in all common areas”.

Vote: Motion passed 5 to 1

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” - C.S. Lewis