Letter: Blatant disregard for COVID protocols is alarming

Posted 12/2/21

To the editor:I attended the BWRSD School Committee meeting on Monday, November 22, and was alarmed by the lack of adherence to COVID-19 protocol on display. The public portion of the meeting largely …

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Letter: Blatant disregard for COVID protocols is alarming

Posted

To the editor:

I attended the BWRSD School Committee meeting on Monday, November 22, and was alarmed by the lack of adherence to COVID-19 protocol on display. The public portion of the meeting largely consisted of giving accolades to elementary school students who had ‘exceeded expectations’ on the RICAS assessments, as well as to the KMS Cross Country and Girls Soccer teams for their outstanding seasons, so the Mount Hope High School cafeteria was packed with students and families from throughout the district.

It is wonderful to see the youth of our community succeeding academically and athletically, and they certainly deserve recognition. However, given the high number of COVID cases in our schools in the preceding weeks, the decision to bring so many community members together in close quarters was questionable. Indeed, a cluster of new cases was reported among Mount Hope students the following day, resulting in the need for a pause of in-person education on Wednesday to allow for appropriate contact tracing, ultimately leading to the need to postpone the Thanksgiving Day football game. I’m not suggesting that the outbreak at Mount Hope was linked to this meeting, but I am suggesting that while COVID cases are rising in our community and in our schools, bringing so many students and families together in a school cafeteria days before the Thanksgiving holiday seemed exceptionally irresponsible.

Not only was the cafeteria at standing room only capacity, but many of the adults present were unmasked. At one point, an announcement was made reminding attendees that they were in a public school building where universal masking is mandated, and that anyone without a mask would either need to put one on or leave. I saw very few put on masks after that, and I don’t believe anybody left. Many remained unmasked. No additional action was taken, and no further announcements were made.

Shortly after this announcement, school committee members entered from their executive session. Three (Tara Thibaudeau, Sheila Ellsworth, and Victor Cabral) were unmasked and remained unmasked for the duration of the meeting. Thibaudeau presented student athletes with certificates and shook their hands.

I am dismayed by the blatant disregard for policy and the complete lack of enforcement of a state mandate. Perhaps school committee members who disregard district and state policies should not be allowed to retain their positions. They, possibly above all, have a responsibility to uphold policies, abide by the rules and regulations, and model appropriate behavior for the students that they have been elected to steward.

BWRSD School Committee leadership appears either unable or unwilling to control the behavior of members and meeting attendees. Given the lack of regard for state mandated public health protocols demonstrated at this meeting, along with a string of problematic actions over the last several months, I question whether this committee, in its current composition, is able to fulfill its obligations to the community. In fact, after what I witnessed last Monday it seems likely that it is capable of doing significant harm.

Joanne Kersh
Ellis Avenue, Warren

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