Letter: Community sentiment matters
In the school board meeting Aug. 9, the board heard public comments that reflected a 12-1, or 92% consensus, against a mask mandate in our schools.
I suspect the pro-mandate supporters didn’t show up because they believed the mask mandate was a foregone conclusion. Unfortunately for them, the board had to respond to the consensus expressed by the community on the record during the meeting. The board was hesitant to vote on the matter and instead gave a split-decision of “guidance” that aligned with the community consensus expressed during that meeting.
Naturally, unsatisfied the mandate wasn’t passed as expected, the pro-mandate supporters, along with a sympathetic board, scheduled a “do-over” in a special meeting Aug. 19. In this “do-over” meeting, however, many more people showed up to participate in the exchange of ideas. Public comment instructions were included in the public notice of the Zoom meeting on the district website, and over 150 people dialed-in to participate. In that “do-over” meeting, the board had the opportunity to learn the sentiment of the broader community, but that wasn’t allowed.
It appears there was a pre-ordained mandate all along, and ensuring that conclusion was the purpose of the “do-over” meeting. In this “do-over” meeting, however, the board couldn’t take the risk that community sentiment wouldn’t align with their predetermined conclusion, so public comment wasn’t allowed.
When the chair announced “no public comments,” not a single other member of the board objected. While parents and staff were shocked at being silenced in a public meeting, not a single member of the board represented parents or staff and wanted public comments to be included. Not one.
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The responsibility of the school board is to align our district with the sentiment of the community. In the Aug. 9 meeting, public comment reflected a 92% consensus for no mask mandate. Unfortunately, we have no way to know the sentiment of the community during the “do-over” meeting of Aug. 19 because public comment wasn’t allowed.
The board claimed it’s a closely divided issue, but we have no way to know if that’s true because the board wouldn’t allow public comments during the “do-over” public meeting.
The voices and ideas of everyone must be included and considered in all public meetings before any vote.
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On Tuesday, Peak Health Alliance, a nonprofit, locally-led insurance purchasing alliance, gave a presentation to the Routt County commissioners. We attended the meeting (remotely), and this is what we learned: