The DSISD Board of Trustees hosted an 'Emergency Board Meeting' the night before the first day of school. Even after attending, I'm still baffled about the purpose of the meeting. It seemed the Board wanted to consult with legal representatives for clarification of the last minute decisions by the Texas Judicial system and the Governor's office. Yet, with standard board meeting procedures, the evening included both the closed legal session and a public speaking forum.
The number of public speakers was so large that the Board reduced the individual speaking time from the standard 3min to 1.5min. The auditorium was filled with boisterous anti-maskers, and the lobby was full of pro-maskers who didn't want to be in the same confined space.
It was a circus. It's unnecessary to go into details because the material is generally the same as in previous public forums, but I think it is important to be realistic about the end result. My blunt take-aways are:
- It is irrelevant to continue to argue about medical evidence. If the overloaded hospital numbers are not sufficient, further discussion is pointless.
- The anti-maskers are, in their own words, unconcerned about overall community health. They are specifically concerned about themselves and their own children. Discussion of community protection or 'herd immunity' is pointless.
- At this point, a mask mandate seems unenforceable. Again, further debate is pointless.
- In view of the current hospital load in the Austin area, proposing the reduction of protective measures to pro-maskers is pointless.
Effectively the anti-maskers have performed a basic risk assessment. Their position is that the extreme trauma of wearing a mask represents a much higher risk than the risk of dying from COVID. They're quick to point out the low rate of death with 1-18yr old children. The anti-maskers' conclusion is for no-mask mandate.
The pro-maskers tend to base their risk assessment on vaccine ratios. This, unfortunately, is flawed because 1) this area will not achieve 'herd immunity', and 2) currently we have no option for 5-11yr old students. The pro-maskers' conclusion is for a mask mandate.
The responsibility of DSISD is to represent the community as a whole, and here's a key problem: we have MANY students that must come to school between 5-11yr old and we offer no COVID protection at all. Currently, we have a loose recommendation for masks, but as evidenced by the Meet-the-Teacher events, the recommendation is largely ignored.
It's remarkable the entire community isn't actively alarmed that our health care infrastructure is being stretched beyond capacity. All medical events -not just COVID patents- have a real possibility of being effected by this.
My hope is that the DSISD will be respectful to all students and their families and lead by example. Currently the Board, the Principals, and Teachers are all split with their position on protective measures. With this environment, we are all but guaranteeing students will be ostracized for wearing masks or for avoiding unnecessary risks.
Shouldn't we be doing better?