February’s monthly school board meeting covered a variety of issues, one of which is the KCS face-covering policy. In the public forum, parents had a lot to say; some came to the policy’s defense, others called for its demise. The meeting as a whole provided some interesting commentary as to the concerns parents have for their children.
At Central, our policy states that “Every person who enters the school building will be required to have a temperature check…” This is done in order to identify kids or adults who may enter the building with a fever. Every morning in-person instruction is held, large grey scanners stand tall at the front gate. Students put an arm up to the scanner and wait for the beep, and a member of the staff will tell them to walk through. Of the hundreds of students that walk through the scanners each morning, the office has had to deal with less than ten cases where someone’s temperature was too high.
James Lambert, Assistant Principal and athletic director spoke on temperature checks in a recent interview: “We take the temperatures when the students come in to try to keep things from getting worse. It’s not eliminated the risk, but it’s helped reduce the risk.”
Lambert says that wearing a mask is like wearing a seat belt. “You can buckle up in a car and you’re in a wreck- and you’re still hurt, but you were doing all you could do because you had your seat belt on.”
On the other side of things, students had something to say.
Ella Blair, active president of the junior class, says that “the mask policy at Central has good intentions, but it is often not fully enforced.” Ella says she wishes that more students and teachers would take the threat of sickness seriously and start masking up all the way: “I wish everyone would wear theirs more often and in the correct way, especially since we are so close to the one year mark of the pandemic.”
Another student, Emma Howard, agreed with Blair: “…administrators are not being diligent enough. Every day when I walk into class I see up to ten people completely maskless in the hallways.” Although the face-covering policy is mostly followed by students in the breezeway, it seems that a handful have a hard time keeping their full face covered.
Parents at the KCS forum voiced their concerns, as well. Some said the opposite.
“We’ve gotta get back to normal,” says Laura Branson, an active KCS parent. Speakers were straightforward with their concerns about the face-covering policy, skeptical of its effectiveness and practicality. Some felt frustration about the alleged discrepancy between policies in fine arts programs like band and chorus, compared to more traditional competitive activities like football and cheer.
During Central’s 2020 football season, for example, the band played on the sidelines while the dance and cheer team remained in their traditional spots. Aerosols produced from band instruments forced this change, as it’s the central medium COVID-19 spreads through. (On the right, Thomas Hooper plays his trumpet at the CHS v. South Doyle Playoff Game 11-20-20)
“Our kids were treated as inferior- they are not.” says Lisa Fontanerosa, an active member of the Central Band’s booster club.
Most appeared to oppose the mask policy, but some came to it’s defense.
Tonya Coats, vice president of the Knox County Education Association, exclaimed “We just wanna make sure that we’re flattening the curve.” For Coats, whose family has all contracted COVID-19 at some point, wearing masks is undoubtedly the way to go for KCS educators.
Although some people still seem to be puzzled about the validity of data and statistics, it’s important to note that the effectiveness of masks has been documented and studied since the pandemic began. Face coverings have been proven to work with mountains of evidence, from scientists all over the world.
On February 10, 2021, a study by John T. Brooks, MD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention clearly outlines this trend with patterns from places including Bangkok, Kansas, Beijing, and Missouri.
In Bangkok, for example, the study finds that “always having used a mask reduced infection risk by 77%.”
As the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines become widely available to adults in Knox County, doctors are encouraging all those eligible to get their doses as soon as possible. The CDC has recently altered their vaccine guidelines to include fully vaccinated adults, permitting them to gather indoors without a face covering as long as they’ve had their card filled.
As America reemerges from an austere winter, it seems a brighter future lie ahead.
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