MVSD Board meeting

Around 50 parents showed up to the Aug. 19 MVSD Board meeting to protest the board’s decision to follow state guidance and require masking for the first days of school.

About 50 parents of Missisquoi Valley School District students gathered at the district’s board meeting Aug. 19 with one goal: to protest masking.

They said the district-wide mask mandate for the upcoming start of the school year will have lasting medical and psychological effects on their children.

At a prior MVSD board meeting on Aug. 10, the board unanimously voted to follow the joint guidance from the Vermont Agency of Education and the Vermont Department of Health, which included a mask mandate for the beginning of school.

Despite the state’s recent spikes in cases of COVID-19, with the state of emergency now over, Gov. Phil Scott can no longer require schools to mandate masking, leaving the decision in the hands of local boards.

The two-page COVID-19 Advisory memorandum from the AOE and DOH recommends masking for all individuals in the school for the first 10 instructional days. Once 80% of a school’s eligible student population is fully vaccinated, the memo states, masks should no longer need to be required for vaccinated students.

The 13 parents who spoke at the Aug. 19 meeting told stories of disinterested and uncomfortable children and questioned the science around masking in schools and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s political motivations. They said they had felt unheard.

Stephen Martel, a parent, asked what the point of having a board is if it will just accept guidance from the state and the CDC, which he thinks are more politically motivated than science-motivated. He also called masking psychological abuse.

“Our basic freedom should not be taken from us by the CDC or by this board,” he said. “I should not have to come to this board to beg for my children and grandchildren to breathe fresh air.”

At the Aug. 10 board meeting, members of the board said they need to look to guidance from experts in order to make these decisions.

“I'm not going to say I know for sure the answer. I know both sides have valid arguments,” said MVSD vice chair Devin Bachelder. “When I try to weigh the two and I have to pick a side, I have to go with the recommendations from the Department of Health.”

MVSD superintendent Julie Regimbal expressed similar sentiment, saying no one on the board is an expert in this field.

“The AOE and DOH work with the CDC and a team of epidemiologists in order to make their recommendations for Vermont students,” Regimbal told those attending the meeting. “That is not the business of educators or school board members. We are not experts in this field.”

Regimbal added that educators and school boards give input on the degree to which guidance makes sense in the context of a school but not around the science portion of that guidance.

Medical experts generally agree masking reduces the risk of spreading COVID-19 by effectively stopping coronavirus particles from dispersing into the air.

Meghan Medler, a parent of Missisquoi Valley Union High School students, was the only parent to speak against masking during the Aug. 10 board meeting. She spoke again Aug. 19 and pointed to the parents in the seats behind her.

“I will not back down and they will not back down,” she said. “We will continue to come, and we will continue to write, and if we must, we will come for your seats if you refuse to act like board members.”

(1) comment

Steven Martel

I like how the superintendent and school board members say that they have to defer to the judgement of the experts at the CDC on mask wearing. Yah right, like all the experts the gonernment had on Afghanistan....what a joke these so called experts are. The CDC cannot list one scientific study to prove that masks stop the spread of covid...some experts.

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