District Board Meeting Draws Community Input

The+District+7+board+addresses+community+members+in+an+Aug.+4+board+meeting.+Superintendent+Patrick+Shelton+and+board+president+John+McDole+attend+the+meeting+via+Zoom.

Photo by Mason Kane

The District 7 board addresses community members in an Aug. 4 board meeting. Superintendent Patrick Shelton and board president John McDole attend the meeting via Zoom.

Caspar Dowdy, Views Editor

Days before school began in District 7, community members gathered at Woodland Elementary to voice their opinions about the school board’s “Return to Learn” plan.

Posts on the Edwardsville High School Facebook page announced that the August 4 event would require masks, and signs on the door to the school repeated this requirement alongside verbal reminders from staff. Many of those in attendance remained unmasked.

Comments from community members ranged from support for the plan to protests against proposed COVID-19 precautions.

“I refuse to co-parent with any governing body,” one parent said. “I know what’s best for my son. Not the district, not Pritzker.”

While the plan includes breaks from masking by student request, it is otherwise required. Masks were a common topic in the opinions shared by meeting attendees.

“Take your knee off the necks of these children, because they cannot breathe in these masks,” a community member said, followed by applause.

Alongside masking, some parents raised concerns over the board’s testing programs and exclusion protocols.

The board announced it would use a combination of Binax and SHIELD testing to monitor case numbers in District 7. Binax testing being the nose-swab tests that have become familiar since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, and SHIELD testing being the same saliva tests used by the University of Illinois. According to an August 4 letter from superintendent Patrick Shelton, “Parent permission will be required before administering any type of medical test.”

While two board members attended the meeting via Zoom, parents in the audience expressed discomfort with the idea of their children attending school the same way.

One community member, who identified herself as someone who wasn’t “a fan of masks,” said that if the school board went through with its mandate she would “not follow the quarantine guidelines.”

Another parent said that if her child were excluded from school, the district “better have a court order.”

Some meeting attendees took the opportunity to raise doubts about the effectiveness of masks and vaccines.

“We don’t need to stand behind a mask,” one speaker said, “or an experimental vaccine.”

The CDC website states that vaccines are “safe and effective,” and that evidence suggests cloth masks “help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.” The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was fully approved by the FDA on August 23.

While the majority of those who spoke at the meeting were critical of the board, several attendees voiced their support for the plan.

“I think you have made the best decision to protect our students, to protect our faculty, and our community,” a community member said.

There are four COVID-19 positive students at EHS as of August 24, according to District 7’s COVID-19 Dashboard. As EHS enters its third full week of school, the board meeting discussion will continue to impact the district’s response to COVID-19.

“The true culprit is the virus,” an attendee said, “not each other.”