Wayzata School Board Candidates Weigh In on Issues During Forum
In a year where school board decisions have been the subject of controversy over issues like masking and a return to in-person learning, the candidates vying to lead the Wayzata School District had an opportunity to share where they stand on issues.
Ten of the 12 candidates for Wayzata School Board attended a forum Wednesday night at Plymouth City Hall organized by the League of Women Voters.
Among the issues discussed, the candidates were asked to share their views on the Wayzata School District’s COVID-19 prevention guidance plan for the 21-22 school year. Their responses are below:
“Well everyone knows that I sat on the school board and I voted in favor of our safe learning plan and I am deeply committed to following the recommendations of our public health officials and making sure that we do everything we can to follow mitigation strategies to keep our students in school. The most important thing to know about our safe learning plan right now is that it’s working. I had a meeting with principals from every level and a number of building administrators (Tuesday) and our kids are doing great. They’re following masking. We’re not having extreme quarantines. And it feels as normal as it has in the last 18 months. And, our nurses are really busy and overworked and transmission levels are still really high. So our safe learning plan is focused on making sure that we do everything possible to keep our students in school and we will continue to follow the guidance of public health experts to ensure that we keep our students safe.”
“So I always start with a goal, and the goal is to keep our kids in school for in-person learning, like we were just saying, to reduce any learning loss and to make sure that our society is moving as it should. We want to keep our kids in school for reliable instruction too, so we don’t want a lot of interruptions. So for me, I say we use all of the tools available to us: masking, layer that with vaccines, layer that with hand sanitation, layer that with improved air flow. Do it all so that our kids can stay in school reliably.”
“I agree with the keep students safe plan. The two main goals of keeping students safe and in school, and like I said just a minute ago, we need to prioritize in-school learning. And I just want to be clear, I’m not against vaccines and I’m not against masks, but I am against mandates. Americans and parents have a fundamental right to decide what we put in or on our body. Making our own health care decisions has and should remain apart, as our parental rights. We know that there’s no long-term studies on the effects of COVID and no long-term studies on the effects of the COVID vaccines. And that’s why I really believe that it needs to be a choice and up to the parents and the individual. And also I’ll just leave you with this: have you thought about what the long-term effects of our children sitting in a classroom seven hours a day, not being able to see the face of their classmates or their teachers? And another question for our teachers: not being able to see their students’ nonverbal cues, what are the effects academically?”
“Well, we need to focus on expert opinion and depoliticize science around infection control. We need to engage in public health messaging using the platform of the experts in public health services. Objective analysis around productivity and financial burden can help ward off sentimental and emotional conversation on such important issues. Schools come under the domain of public health. It’s our responsibility to follow the guidelines provided by the experts in the field. We are not trained. They are trained. If one has a valid alternative solution it should be debated or discussed in the forum of public health policy. There are better people than us and are actively devoting their time and expertise to develop infectious control and public health policies. The consequences of not following the established policies divide us as a nation in a time of test, and the consequences are too enormous for our society to bear.”
“I first want to start off by saying that I am not anti-mask, I am not anti-vaccine. I myself am actually vaccinated, so I’m definitely not anti-vaccine. What I am for though is medical freedom. Our parents deserve the right to make health care decisions for themselves and their kids that they deem appropriate. And if that is to wear a mask, wear two masks, great. If that is to not wear a mask, that is fine too. That is their choice. We’re told that we should be following the science. But which science should we be following? There’s science that supports both wearing a mask and not wearing a mask. Masks are good, masks are bad, they’re bad for your lungs. So there’s science that backs up both arguments. Our district currently says that masks should be worn in kindergarten through 8th grade schools until 6 p.m. every day and 3:30 at the high school. But what happens after those hours? Kids are going to basketball practice, hockey practice, without masks, inside the school. They’re going over to friends’ houses, hanging out without masks. And then the very next day they’re back in school together. It doesn’t seem productive to have them wear a mask while they’re in school and not have to afterwards.”
“First, I want to say I don’t think there’s a person up here that isn’t here because they’re not passionate about kids and about their own kids and about the kids in this community. I think we all want to do what’s best to keep our kids in school. I have four kids. I work from home mainly. I want them at school, a hundred percent. I want my kids to be healthy. I want other kids to be healthy, and I want to do that the best way. I agree we need to follow the experts and the science but I have to ditto with what Nick says, I’m here today because I’m for medical freedom. I’m for, if you want to wear a mask, great. I’ll stand with you. If you don’t want to wear a mask, if you do want to wear a mask, I’ll stand with that as well. I want what’s best for our kids, I want them in school, and I want them learning, and I want them healthy. That’s my top goal. And I’ll listen to both sides to achieve that.”
“I’m a scientist who believes in data and the conclusions drawn from it. I’m going to give you just a couple of numbers. Thirty-five percent of the recent COVID infections are children. I don’t think they are from the Wayzata School District but the children who have not been masked are being infected. Breakthrough cases are very rare. Breakthrough cases are infections, hospitalizations and deaths after vaccination is taken — those who have been vaccinated are very, very rare. When the CDC, NIH, and other medical organizations, the Department of Health, tells me that masks are good for the children, I believe them, I trust them. My top priority would be to keep students, teachers, staff and families safe. Masks are the best, short of vaccines. High school students, vaccination has not reached critical mass, but many of them have been vaccinated and I think they should keep continuing to get vaccinated. As Chace Anderson said, at the end of the year, we will look at the situation and we will take a call. I hope it’s the best news we hear rest of the year.”
“I’m a dad of a kindergartener and a second grader, and I understand how difficult it can be sometimes for kids to wear a mask all day. But I also believe that having kids in school should be our top priority. And if that means they have to wear a mask, well, the science backs that up. And I will support any COVID mitigation protocols the science and data and CDC support. For example, we know COVID-19 vaccines have been scientifically proven to be safe and effective. But all that being said, we are in uncharted territory; and that’s why we need to keep revisiting these policies, and if elected, I plan to work closely with our administration to regularly revisit those health and safety protocols and make sure we’re doing what’s best for kids and families.”
“First of all I want to say that there’s no way to please everyone, and that I do believe our board has the kids’ best interest at heart. And so thank you Sarah, and all the board members out there, I know this has been hard for you guys. Personally, I do support freedom. The CDC recommends wearing masks, and therefore I think we can recommend wearing masks too and let those health care decisions be placed with the parents. In particular with the vaccine, this is new vaccine technology. We don’t have long-term data on this kind of vaccine. I’m not against vaccines. I probably have more vaccines in my body than most of you all, having lived overseas, so my kids are fully vaccinated. This one I would just like to see more long-term data before we go and mandate it or put all of our trust in it, whereas you can see people with vaccines are getting COVID, and they are getting hospitalized.”
“When we look back from a year ago, it’s remarkable that we’re talking about having our kids in class now. It’s very encouraging. The first day of school I walked around to see the look on everybody’s faces at the school bus stop. How excited the kids were to get back to school, how excited the parents were to have their kids go back in school, I think everyone was taking pictures again. I went to the high school, there was so much positive energy at the school, everybody going back to school and seeing their friends. That’s where we need to keep them. We need to keep them in the school. I’m not a scientist. I have a daughter who’s in the medical field. I have friends who are pediatricians, and I also have friends who have PhD’s in epidemiology. And since I’m not a scientist, I rely on what experts say. And as others have mentioned, there’s many experts making comments and there’s many studies out there. I believe that we have to rely on the studies that are consistent with the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health, and certainly the experts that I know recommend that you should be wearing a mask and following all necessary protocols as recommended, because the end goal for me is to see the kids eventually happy faces in the school. Hopefully that time comes soon.”