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School Board votes to go masks optional
Riverdale School District

MUSCODA - The Riverdale School District has moved to masks optional on their COVID-19 Matrix.

The decision was made at Monday nights regularly scheduled board meeting with only two board members voting against the change.

Although on the agenda the meeting was noted to be masked required, approximately seven community members attended without masks or masks improperly worn and board member Nick Stitzer was also present without his mask being worn.

District Administrator Jon Schmidt noted that at present the school had been seeing a reduction in cases which was in line with what the county and nation as a whole has been seeing. As of Monday there were two active cases in the elementary school and five cases in the middle/high school. Along with 18 students and staff in “quarantine” at school (meaning they must mask no matter what during the set time period but were able to return to school symptom free). It was also noted that after recent shortages, the school was expecting a restock of rapid tests to begin implementing their test to stay and test to play programs.

Three parents spoke at the meeting during open comment about their opposition to required masking.

All three individuals cited the fact that although masks needed to be worn in the classroom, at games and school events they were not required.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” was the primary comment echoed on the topic.

“I feel like walking into the school tonight while walking past the gym full of unmasked people but expecting us to wear a mask to walk in here doesn’t make sense.” Shared an unmasked parent who identified themselves as Nicole. “Why do they have to sit in class with a mask but not in the gym? I feel it has to be all or nothing and I’m choosing for nothing. I had COVID and my kids didn’t get sick! My vote is NO MORE!”

Another unmasked parent who identified as Laura cited seeing board members in public not wearing masks but they’re requiring students to wear them, and asked “how is this acceptable?”

“I’ve heard from many people that they don’t agree with the mask mandate, but being a much smaller school and close knit community, they’re afraid to speak up for fear their child will be punished and not able to play or get a bad grade because of it,” the parent said. “It’s been proved over and over again that kids are least effected by COVID so what are we protecting them from? It is time to let the parents choose!”

Educational Aid Katrina Duffy-Brauer also spoke at the meeting against masks, while also presenting unmasked. Duffy-Brauer began her time citing several statistics about pediatric COVID deaths and side effects from mask wearing such as dry mouth and bad breath.

“We moved here from Illinois to escape the mask mandates,” cited Duffy-Brauer. “Isn’t it ironic that they just dropped theirs (mandates). We’re dealing with pediatric death rate comparable to the flu. The risks of masking outweigh the benefits. If you decide to drop the mandate, families still have the choice to mask if they want to.”

When the board discussed the topic, Schmidt offered his recommendation to go mask optional, citing the downward trend of positive cases in the community at large.

“Our children are not the only ones involved,” explained board member Travis Hudson. “We have to listen to the teachers voices. Those people teaching our children, nine out of ten of them want masks. They know people are sending their kids to school sick. I get it, I sometimes wear a mask 16 hours a day but we have to realize that there are other people involved.”

“Everyone has a choice,” noted board member Damien Miller. “Kids and parents with compromised immune systems. Our decision isn’t just based on your child or your child (at this point Miller gestured towards parents in the audience.) It’s based on how we can do this so all of the kids can go home just as healthy as they came into the building.”

“I’m not a mask person,” board member Nick Stitzer said. “I’ve had COVID in my house two times and no one outside of our house got sick even being around other people closely. My family is immunocompromised and we were fine. It’s time to let parents parent. I’ve got probably 15 calls recently and not a single one wants kids in masks.” Stitzer went on to share with deep emotion in his voice a story about how his son is falling behind due to his being impaired and being unable to read lips in the classroom because of masks. Stitzer went on to indicate he feels as though many children are likely suffering the same plight as his son with learning in masks. “I don’t think we’re doing the kids justice,” Stitzer concluded.

“Why don’t we take the emotion out of it,” board member Marc Couey said. “Lets go by the data. Everyone has the opportunity to do what’s right for their family but we set the guidelines and its below the guidelines so lets take off the masks. And if it goes above well, everyone should just be prepared to put them back on. It’s just how it goes.”

Ultimately, the vote to mask optional passed with only board members Dave McHenry and Damien Miller voting against. The decision was met with applause and small cheers from the audience members.

In other board news:

•The board made the decision to move ahead with the first phase of the referendum remodel. To help stay within budget the office remodel, front entrance remodel and art room remodel will not be completed as part of phase one. However board member Dave McHenry noted he felt the front office was a priority should funds become available to add it in.

• Approved purchasing new speakers, clock, strobe, lights units for the middle/high school gym

•Heard a report from the elementary that the students are doing well in reading and math compared to the national averages.