Crookston School Board approves health and safety measures for 2021-2022 year

Jess Bengtson
Crookston Times

    The Crookston School Board approved health and safety measures for the 2021-2022 school year at a special meeting August 16 which starts the year off at a Level 2 that includes social distancing of three feet for elementary students, parent screening and hand washing. Superintendent Jeremy Olson made it clear that with Polk County at a “substantial” level of transmission, the levels could change in the coming weeks.

    The levels approved by the board are:

    • Level 1 - Masks on the bus only (which is a current federal requirement), staff masks on the bus only, parent screening for all elementary/high school/bus, and hand washing for elementary/high school/bus

    • Level 2 - Social distancing of three feet for elementary plus the Level 1 requirements

    • Level 3 - Social distancing of three feet for elementary, student masks for elementary, staff masks for elementary, social distancing for high school, plus the requirements of Levels 1 and 2

    • Level 4 - Social distancing of three feet for elementary/high school/bus, student masks for elementary/high school/bus, staff masks for elementary/high school/bus, plus parent screening, temp checks at the door and hand washing for all

    During the public forum part of the meeting three people stood up the mic with two saying they were not in favor of masks and one in favor of masks.

    Crookston parent Jason Benoit said he would like to have no masks and explained he coaches hockey and it’s been very difficult for kids to know what they’re doing and to know what he’s doing and whether he’s angry or smiling or joking around.

    “Due to the research I’ve done with the Minnesota Department of Health there isn’t enough risk,” Benoit pointed out. “For school-age kids there have only been six deaths in Minnesota and for kids from age 9 to 24 there is zero; I’d like that to be taken into consideration if possible.”

    Crookston parent Joelle read a statement about the 1918 Spanish Flu and said the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Chief Medical Advisor to the President Dr. Anthony Fauci reportedly said most of the people that died from that disease wore masks and died from bacteria pneumonia. Joelle added that there has been research done on masks worn that contain high amounts of bacteria.

    “0.008% of kids have died from COVID, there are no studies that say that masks work,” he continued. “There are no peer reviews; you’re more likely to get it wearing a mask.”

    Crookston parent Mary Gosse said she has a science degree, a Masters degree, and respectfully disagreed with the others that stood up at the podium.

    “There are benefits and research on masks,” she added. “The CDC and Minnesota Department of Health are all recommending masks along with social distancing and other measures. The Delta variant is new this year and we shouldn’t be just concerned with kids’ deaths, we should be concerned with kids getting sick.”

    “Masks worked for the school last year and there were not very many who were quarantined or sick,” Gosse continued. “Do masks in school and keep up with social distancing in classrooms and we won’t have to cancel activities. Be proactive and not reactive.”

    School Board chair Frank Fee mentioned that Superintendent Olson has been in contact with Polk County Public Health almost every day which led him to his recommendation.

    “If anything I’ve learned in the last year is to be flexible with schools,” Olson explained. “There are four different levels we’re doing and this is just a starting point as we may have to shift and move as the data shifts and moves. What we start off with the level at this meeting may not be in October, November, December.”

    School Board member Mike Theis said he would like to see vaccinated staff not be required to wear masks, but was told by Fee that would be telling to who is vaccinated and who isn’t. School Board member Adrianne Winger said if the students have to wear masks the staff should as a “do as I say not as I do” statement. She also mentioned temperature checks at the doors should be used at Level 3 to keep students safe.

    Theis added that he was okay with the matrix and levels presented, but would like a school board meeting to be called as soon as levels change so the community can have input adding to their transparency.

    “It’s an anxious time for which ever side or whatever feelings are, but we are making decisions for 1,300 students and staff and we don’t take it lightly,” added Fee.

    The measures passed unanimously by the four board members present with Tim Dufault and Dave Davidson being absent.

Jason Benoit speaks at the School Board meeting
Crookston parent Joelle spoke at the School Board meeting
Mary Gosse speaks at the School Board meeting