Letter: Please enforce universal masking at school committee meetings

Posted 9/15/21

The following was signed by multiple people and directed to Marjorie McBride, chairwoman of the Bristol Warren Regional School Committee.

We, the undersigned, are writing to urge you to recognize …

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Letter: Please enforce universal masking at school committee meetings

Posted

The following was signed by multiple people and directed to Marjorie McBride, chairwoman of the Bristol Warren Regional School Committee.

We, the undersigned, are writing to urge you to recognize the importance of all School Committee members to be unified in modeling mask compliance, and to take seriously the consequences when they fail to adhere to these guidelines.

At the time of the Aug. 30 meeting, Gov. McKee had issued a statewide school mask mandate. Unfortunately, the public who attended the meeting in person in a public school building and those who tuned in to watch the livestream witnessed members wearing their masks ineffectively (under the nose or even under the chin) for the duration of the meeting. Of note, an audience member was called upon to use his mask while in attendance, but this directive was not issued to the Committee members themselves.

The consequences of this are real and serious. The most immediate consequences included sending the message that others in attendance (both school committee members and community members) need not follow these requirements. Fewer people wearing masks creates an environment in which COVID19 is more likely to spread, while research reflects that higher percentages of mask compliance leads to significant reduction in the risk for COVID19 transmission.

There are also potential longer-term consequences of School Committee members refusing to mask appropriately at the Aug. 30 meeting. There were many parents and students watching the meeting virtually who might well interpret this lack of respect for school policy as a license for their own noncompliance (or even a call to blatantly disregard policy).

This ripple effect threatens to make the beginning weeks of school even more challenging for administrators, teachers, and staff members, who need to ensure student compliance. If students are not fully compliant, the virus has greater opportunity to spread, making the work of our school nurses significantly harder.

As our principals, teachers, nurses and support staff warily head back into school for another year of education during a pandemic, they need and deserve an incredible amount of support from our entire community. From our School Committee in particular, they need and deserve consistency, clarity, leadership, and the modeling of safe behavior and adherence to district policies.

School Committee members hold a decisive role in influencing the attitudes and behaviors of our community, and have a voice to encourage community members to unite around the issue of student safety. They are also well positioned to demonstrate how to wear a mask correctly (completely covering one’s nose and mouth).

We can do this. We won’t have to wear masks forever, but it is important to wear them now. Let’s take care of each other. We ask that you enforce proper universal masking of all participants at School Committee meetings.

The letter was signed by Lisa Peterson, Sheila Dobbyn, Jane Govednik, Joanne Kersh, Marny Kindness, Margaret Richards, Tamara Kaplan, Bethany Carpenter, Cory Kallfelz, Jennifer Ramirez, Kristen Machado, Joel Huval, Rachel Grande, Colleen Donovan, Sara Medeiros, Aradhana Mehta, Deborah Coury, Scott Proto, Abbey Lemieux, Wendy Virgadamo and William Bullard. All are residents of either Bristol or Warren.

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