East Grand board president: Why I voted to remove the mask mandate
The East Grand School Board recently took a vote on our mask policy, which there has been a lot of discussion around and I want to share the reasoning behind my vote. I assure all of you I did not come to it lightly.
Creating policy in East Grand is not easy. We are what the pundits call “purple,” evenly blue and red. Almost every district survey bore that out, with a close to even opinion every time. To say this makes policy making difficult is an understatement, knowing that every decision will alienate half the population.
I have been quite clear at each of our meetings on the record that when the quarantine rules were lessened I wanted to get rid of masks. While for the majority of us the wearing of masks is not much of a burden, I have had some heartfelt conversations with some parents whose students were truly regressing. The younger the student the more of an impact mask wearing has on their learning, especially when it comes to linguistic skills.
EGSD is taking a layered approach that offers choice to parents and students. Students and staff can mask, vaccinate and or serial test in this approach. We had waited for these options to offer these choices and now they’re all available. This was a key part in changing the policy. The decision was made in concert with Grand County Public Health and is consistent with public health policy.
In being out and about, I was always observing local norms. I welcomed friends home from domestic and international travel. Going to eat and drink devolved from restaurants at 50% occupancy with no bar seats and customers always wearing a mask between bites and sips to 100% occupancy with customers just bellying up to a barstool or table and taking off masks for minutes or hours on end, if wearing a mask at all. People are going to concerts locally or on the road.
I looked at what businesses opened, first the “essential” businesses — dispensaries, grocery, hardware and liquor stores — to every business — spas, ski resorts, movie theaters — all being fully opened with millions of our dollars spent on drawing guests to our valley from all corners of the world.
Friends are going from small cohort group gatherings to full on parties unmasked. It appeared the community at large had embraced going without masks. The question is how much impact could keeping 10% of the population masked 8 hours a day, four days a week have on the spread of coronavirus when all this is going on in the community at large.
I say to my friends that I must be a moderate, because all my liberal friends tell me I am too conservative and all my conservative friends tell me I am too liberal. I am proud of the fact that as a district we had meetings where all voices were heard and no one can say we did not offer ample opportunity for public comment.
Also, while passions were evident, the dialogue was mostly respectful and courteous. I am proud that our community, despite its political diversity and passion, has managed to be respectful in disagreements for the most part. I hope we can keep this alive and not fall into the trap of red vs blue at all costs and remember that while this community is politically diverse, we are intertwined.
The person you may disagree with is also someone who helps you change your tire, dig your car out of a snow bank, coaches your child in sports, volunteers at the schools, builds your home or puts it out when it is on fire. As we move forward I ask you when discussing this or any issue with another community member please evaluate your fellow Grand County citizen on a micro level before going to the macro of the red or blue, mask or no mask.
— Ed Raegner, EGSD parent and board president
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