Aug 10, 2021 | By: Chris Burns

Mask Mandate Debated at Brainerd School Board Meeting

Parents and residents showed up in great numbers Monday night to express their opinions on whether or not a mask mandate should be required or not in Brainerd Public Schools this year. At this time, the district will not be enforcing a mask mandate to start the school year, but mask wearing is encouraged.

“We know the delta variant is more infectious. It affects people more seriously. Why would we not protect as many children as we can by asking our kids to wear masks to school?” argued Dale Menk in favor of wearing masks.

“In my wildest imagination, I never pictured myself before a board fighting for kids’ rights to breathe fresh air. Of all the issues we could be discussing, this would be the very last one but here we are imploring that you make the right choice, which is mask choice, not mandate,” pleaded Susanna Lamusga.

As COVID-19 case numbers rise, social distancing was enforced in the school. An overflow room quickly filled as the first speakers talked about what a mask mandate will do to the school.

“Your enrollment will drop drastically. I know your numbers already down going into this year and I’m here to say they will go down even further, leaving you no choice but to make budget cuts, and we don’t want this. We want to parent our children in regards to their health,” said Mackenzie Erickson.

Some fought for the right to choose, while those for wearing a mask in school believe the discomfort of some is worth the safety of all.

“The reason I wear this mask, everybody, is not to protect myself. The reason I wear this mask is to protect other people in case I’m carrying the virus,” said Menk.

The school board announced that parents will not be able to pick online or in-person learning this year, with the school year being five days a week and all day. This raises concerns for parents for and against the mask mandate.

“My kid wants to come to school. If my kid has to come to school with a bunch of people that are unmasked with rising infection rates from the delta variant, that could have serious consequences for my kids,” said Menk.

“My kids and their friends, their staff, their teachers, they all need to see each other’s face, see each other’s smiles. They need to see each other’s emotions. That’s how they build their character. That’s how they build their person,” said Mike Hoff.

The school board said they’ll be enforcing the state mask mandate on public transportation, meaning students have to wear them on the bus. That policy is set to expire on September 13 but can be revised to continue.

The school did do what many parents asked, and that is give them the choice of wearing a mask. The district will be keeping an eye on the case rate and will adjust accordingly.

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