The Bowling Green Independent School District will keep its mask requirement in place, at least for now, after the district school board on Monday refused to go ahead with Superintendent Gary Fields’ recommendation to make masking optional .
“My recommendation is that we move to optional masking in the future,” Fields told the board, citing a drop in coronavirus cases and contacts, improvements in hospital capacity and the recent clearance of the COVID-vaccine. 19 for 5 to 11 years old. the old as encouraging signs. In addition, about 500 of the district’s employees have been vaccinated against COVID-19, which means 75% of its workforce is immune, Fields said.
“We’re never going to get to zero” cases and contacts, Fields said.
Despite good respect for masking among students and staff, “the ability to remove masks, I think, will be of great benefit to us,” said Fields. He argued that it would help teachers communicate and therefore teach their students more effectively.
Yet despite Fields’ recommendation, the board chose not to go ahead with the decision.
Fields’ recommendation failed to get a motion or even a favorable or unfavorable vote among the four board members present. Chairman of the Board, Frank “Hamp” Moore, was absent due to illness.
Ultimately, the board’s decision was to take the wait-and-see approach.
Board member Mike Bishop said that – given that vaccines were only recently available for children aged 5 to 11 – he wanted to give parents more time to get their children vaccinated before sending them off. in a school where masks are not needed.
Board member Deborah Williams said she could go either way on the issue, but was adamant that students shouldn’t have to share their immunization status to attend school.
“If we start trying to vaccinate a large number of children in our schools, I will not support that. I will not support whether this child sitting next to another child is vaccinated or not. I’m not going to do this because I think the medical information is private. Period, ”Williams said. “I don’t want us to take this step.
Board member Christine Dressler agreed with Williams.
Regarding the masking issue, Dressler said she supports keeping the requirement in place for now.
“We’ve come this far,” Dressler said. “The goal is to keep these children in school.”
Asked whether the school district plans to track or identify students who have received the coronavirus vaccine in the future, Fields told the Daily News that would not be the case.
“We don’t track student vaccinations. We did not request this information from the students. The only time our nurses ask for it is when we contact Trace, as it can prevent a student from having to quarantine themselves, ”Fields said.
The district also has no plans to hold school vaccination clinics for students aged 5 to 11, Fields said. “I think it’s a family decision,” he said.
When asked if his recommendation to go to the optional mask was too hasty, Fields said his proposal was based on the information he had, which showed encouraging signs regarding the spread at school, local hospital capacity and other factors.
“I think we’re just trying to take the data we have and make a local decision,” Fields said.
He also responded to Gov. Andy Beshear, who in recent weeks urged school districts to reverse their masking requirements.
“I think, locally, our charge and the burden of our board is to make decisions for local students in our local community,” said Fields. “Sometimes it’s not the same decisions, but that doesn’t mean we don’t agree with what the governor says… It’s just that locally we see something maybe a little different . “
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