LETTER: Situational masking

Douglas A. Darling/Leavenworth

To the editor:

Mr. Proctor can endorse whoever he wants for the Leavenworth school board. He did that in a letter to the editor in the paper Sept. 8, 2021. I spent 25 years of my life in uniform protecting the citizens of this republic to ensure their continued freedoms and that includes those individuals that disagree with me.

At least in his latest letter to the editor, he learned from Mr. Carney’s reply to a previous letter of his and did not make his endorsement political in nature. Local politics shouldn’t be brought down to the current level of pig pen partisan politics found at the state and federal levels.

His gripe with Mr. Carney and me seems to be centered on the Leavenworth Unified School District’s situational masking policy. Then his letter throws in as Parthian shots: mandatory vaccines, reforms to our property tax system and what I assume is critical race theory (CRT) and the 1619 Project.

Unified School Districts in Kansas only have the power (known as home rule) that the state Legislature grants them. Mr. Proctor is a member of the Kansas Legislature and presumably can do something directly about what powers Unified School District boards of education have regarding their ability to handle those three issues he briefly mentions.

As my Parthian shot, as I stated before, CRT is not an approved item in the curriculum at the state or Leavenworth Unified School District levels. However, I am curious about how Mr. Proctor defines CRT as someone who has taught thousands of young people about citizenship in this great republic over the last 30 years in a variety of venues.

As a side issue, the Legislature speaks with two tongues when they tell school boards to not increase local taxes more than inflation based on increased property valuations and then they also mandate a 20 mill property tax for schools in addition to bond issues voted for by local voters and capital outlays already subject to protests. Those regular surveys of property valuations and adjustments are the result of lawsuits in the 1990s that led to Kansas’ 1994 property tax overhaul.

COVID-19 is a problem in the greater Kansas City area of which Leavenworth is a part. I know a teacher that had a gallbladder attack last weekend. Because of COVID-19 patients filling so many beds, that teacher couldn’t have gallbladder surgery until this coming weekend.

Currently, Leavenworth County has 49 children ages 17 and younger, including some from USD 453, diagnosed with active COVID-19. Over 1,000 children in the county have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began. A small percentage of children suffer life-threatening consequences of COVID-19. I also know that most children are not currently documented as suffering significantly from this disease. But I don’t know which child, if any, is going to suffer lasting effects or die from COVID-19. I don’t want Dr. Roth to inform the board of education of a COVID-19 death. But, if that does happen, I want to know that I did everything possible to prevent that death.

On Sept. 3, the Leavenworth school district had over 200 students quarantined due to their possible exposure to COVID-19. The school district also had significant numbers of staff out either with COVID-19 or quarantined because of possible exposure to COVID-19. None of the actual cases are linked to transmission in Leavenworth’s schools. I believe that is because of the district’s situational masking policy and its extensive sanitation efforts.

The district’s situational masking policy is what allows the Leavenworth school district to remain open and conduct in-person instruction. While the current execution of that policy is certainly not flawless, based on what I see when I volunteer regularly at David Brewer Elementary, it is getting better. Mr. Proctor and I probably agree that in-person instruction is the best instructional method for most of our students. The Wellington school district south of Wichita was recently shut down because its facilities were COVID-19 hot spots. I don’t want to see that happen here in Leavenworth.

– Douglas A. Darling/Leavenworth

Douglas A. Darling is a member of the USD 453 Board of Education.