Tuesday, August 18th, 2020

Parents object to Minster mask rules

By Sydney Albert
MINSTER - After a long discussion with parents concerned about the district's mandatory mask policy on Monday night, school board members passed an initial policy with guidelines to be finalized later.
The policy was approved 4-1, with board member Ted Oldiges voting against it.
About a dozen parents attended the meeting, expressing concerns not just about face coverings but also about many coronavirus-related policies, including the discontinuation of in-town busing, sanitization and social distancing.
Gov. Mike DeWine recently mandated that face coverings be required as schools return to in-person learning. Each district is required to adopt a face mask policy, superintendent Brenda Boeke said.
Face masks and shields will be provided to employees, and Boeke said teachers had been instructed to use face shields if they were able to properly social distance from students. Officials felt that keeping faces visible where possible would help students learning new languages, including younger kids expanding their vocabularies, and students with disabilities.
Students and staff don't need to wear masks under a number of exemptions, including for medical reasons, security purposes or identification, if wearing masks would create a hazard such as in a science lab or for other listed reasons.
Boeke said administrators hope to provide more details to parents about the policy soon. Amid comments from parents, Boeke said she could soon send out a survey to determine how families felt about in-town busing.
Board members had voted previously to discontinue in-town busing to prevent possible virus spread.
Kids will have several "mask breaks" throughout the day, Boeke said. They will not be required to wear masks in the cafeteria during lunch, during gym classes or at recess, for instance. Administrators are also reportedly ordering tents to be set up so teachers could move classes outside. While students would be required to social distance, students could take a break from wearing masks while outside.
Boeke also mentioned officials had been consulting with infectious disease expert Carol Quinter, who fully approved of their face mask policy.
Several parents asked board members to consider parents' feelings when crafting the policy. Parent Chris Niekamp asked board members to adopt the "broadest exemption policy possible," taking into account physical, mental, religious and parental rights. While it might be risky for them to stand up to state mandates, he said some policies were worth fighting for.
Others agreed, bringing up how much difficult it could be to get younger kids to wear masks, to keep track of their masks and to keep masks clean. Some said their children found the masks scary looking.
Boeke said that while she understood concerns and that many people opposed recent mandates, district officials must honor the concerns of others who are worried about their families' health and safety.
High school principal Austin Kaylor described himself as a realist and said that while he was not a fan of masks himself, it was a price he was willing to pay to keep kids in school. He added that older kids were resilient enough to handle it.
Last spring, when the district had gone to remote-only learning and typical high school events such as sporting events, prom and graduation were being canceled or altered, he said the depression he saw in his high school students "was real." That mental health toll was why he felt it was so important they return to in-person schooling. To have that in-person schooling, the district needs to adhere to state mandates.
"We need to be here. If this is the price we have to pay, we'll do it. We'll sort through the political repercussions later," Kaylor said.
In other business, board members approved a remote-learning model in case the schools are forced to close again.
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CELINA - For King and Country, one of two acts originally booked for the Mercer County Fair's now canceled 2020 Christian concert, will perform a drive-in show on the fairgrounds parking lot at 8 p.m. Sept. 27, fair manager Cara Muhlenkamp said. [More]
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CELINA - School board members at Monday's regular meeting approved a resolution to update the district's face covering plan to comply with a state directive.
4 Auglaize cases are young people
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Minster sweeps New Bremen in golf matchups
Compiled by Gary R. Rasberry
Neighboring rivals Minster and New Bremen met up in Midwest Athletic Conference boys and girls golf action on Monday at Arrowhead Golf Club, the course the two teams call home.