Letter: Masking protocols

Eric R. Price / Leavenworth

To the editor: 

I am sure there will be much caterwauling in the coming days regarding the outcomes of the Lansing and Leavenworth school boards’ decisions on masking protocols. But for those that weren’t there, and didn’t watch the event live stream, here are some important things to know about the decision that came out of the Leavenworth board.

The superintendent provided a recommendation that was fact-based, supported by evidence from respected medical organizations (both national and regional), and focused on both risks to persons (students and staff) and risk to mission (in person, high quality education). Not hype. Not fear-mongering. Facts. Evidence. Risk.

The plan presented by the superintendent, and approved by the board, reflected the lessons learned from the last school year and impacts of changes made during summer school. It showed that voluntary mask wearing and vaccination stats were low, and ultimately impacted the small classes involved in summer school in ways that would likely have greater ramifications during the school year.

Most importantly, the superintendent assessed this information against the potential risks posed to our schools, both in terms of health and safety, and in terms of addressing the larger demand that parents have been making since the early days of the pandemic —keeping children in school. Medical risks might still be relative low for children, but the health risks to staff and faculty are now higher, thanks to the greater infectiousness and impact of the delta variant.

Bigger still was the overall risk to keeping our children in the classroom. Higher rates of transmissibility and the rules that govern quarantine of those exposed, which lay beyond the superintendent’s and board’s control, presented a significant risk to keeping students in school. This risk was further exacerbated by limits on remote learning enacted by the legislature, and seem key to the approach ultimately presented, and approved by the board.

Those who oppose mask mandates, and members of the GOP will, almost certainly claim that the “will of the people” was not reflected in the outcome. Horse feathers! The public was allowed unscheduled comments BEFORE the vote, and those comments were nine in favor of mask protocols, three against, and one off-topic. Based on conversations with my wife, the president of the board, I would surmise that the comments she received before the meeting also leaned in favor of a formal masking rule.

Board member Mike Carney said it eloquently in the meeting — the board is charged not with the welfare of a single child or family, but with the welfare of the entire four thousand or so students, staff, and faculty in the district. The fact is that school boards, superintendents, and school staffs and faculty make safety decisions every day to keep my children and yours safe while they are in the care of our schools.

Others will continue to complain that masks don’t work but it is madness to think that a few hours building a case using Google results that have been curated by algorithm should somehow trump the cumulative expertise of practitioners in those research fields (who by the way, have read your internet article and hundreds more).

I was personally in favor of adopting the CDC’s universal masking in schools. But given that district’s goal to reduce the risk of disease contraction and possible quarantine which would result, because it might lead to large numbers of children not being in school, I applaud both the superintendent’s efforts in crafting a recommendation and the board’s wisdom in agreeing to it.

The Leavenworth school board did this week what they have done repeatedly since even before the pandemic started. They continued to put the welfare of the children of this district, and the staff and faculty who educate them, first and foremost in their decision-making while setting partisanship and political expediency aside. That is more than can be said for some of the politicians that represent Leavenworth.

Eric R. Price / Leavenworth