UPDATED: Bemidji School Board Votes in Favor of Mask Mandate
During a special session on Wednesday, the Bemidji School Board voted in favor of requiring masks for all students, staff, and visitors within school buildings regardless of vaccination status. They also voted for prevention strategies for schools.
“All staff students and visitors within the district buildings, regardless of vaccination status, are recommended to follow the strategies of physical distancing, hand washing, and respiratory etiquette; cleaning and disinfection; contact tracing, screening, testing, staying home when sick as defined in the CDC guidance for COVID-19 prevention,” read Superintendent Tim Lutz.
The board was debating four options for the resolution with varying levels of requirements:
- 1. requiring masks for all
- 2. requiring masks for those in K-5 schools
- 3. requiring masks for those unvaccinated
- 4. a recommendation for masking
The board ended up voting for option 1 after members of the board expressed opposition to a resolution with different rules for different people.
“If it’s not universal one way or the other – ‘universal’ saying all masks or ‘universal’ saying I recommend no masks, then it’s going to possibly create some tension within the district with the teachers and some of the kids in different grades and the staff,” said Board Member Gabriel Warren.
The resolution was not approved exactly as written. There were two amendments added by members of the school board, one regarding outdoor masking and the other the maximum quarantine period.
Board Member Warren amended the resolution to allow for students to take off their masks when outside. Board Member Jeff Haack included the amendment that would allow for quarantine periods for students with positive COVID-19 tests to be shortened to allow for 10 days away from school in the event of asymptomatic cases, which follows guidelines put forward by the Minnesota Department of Health.
The resolution passed 5-1 by the board, with only Board Member Jeff Lind voting against it, but he made a note of support to the board’s decision.
Elsewhere in the Lakeland viewing area, the Brainerd School Board voted 4-1 to require masks indoors at all the district’s schools with a few exceptions. Masks will not be required there during indoor physical education classes or outdoors.