HINSDALE, N.H. — Town residents will have a chance to weigh in on a recommendation that masks be required in Hinsdale schools when the school year starts on Aug. 31.
“There’s been no final decision yet,” said Sean Leary, chairman of the School Board. “Currently, folks have a chance to give input and they will have a chance at our Aug. 18 meeting, too. That’s their right to be heard and they can have a voice.”
In addition to taking comments from the public during the meeting, the School Board is soliciting email comments at email@example.com. To be included in the discussion, comments must be received by Aug. 15.
The Hinsdale Reopening Committee, which included the district’s two nurses, Middle/High School Principal Ann Frietag and Hinsdale Elementary School Principal Joseph Boggio, created a draft reopening plan.
“The School Board has not provided input nor discussed the reopening plan,” said Leary. “We’ll have that discussion on Aug. 18 and the Board will decide which parts to keep.”
“The Hinsdale Reopening Committee closely followed the July 27 CDC ‘Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools,’” wrote Superintendent Wayne Woolridge, in a letter to parents. “Indeed, the increase of community transmission across the U.S., driven by the Delta variant, was a factor in determining our students’ most prudent in-person learning experience.”
That in-person learning experience includes a requirement that all persons in the building, including students, wear masks.
In response to the letter, a petition is circulating to collect signatures from people opposed to a mask mandate in the schools.
The petition’s organizer, Jay Kolakoski, wrote in a Facebook post that it should be up to the parents and the children, not the School Board, in deciding whether to wear masks in school.
The petition can be signed online at www.ipetitions.com/petition/wearing-masks-in-the-hinsdale-school-district.
Those seeking further information can contact Sarah Kolakoski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kolakoski and his wife, Sarah, said ultimately it should be the parents’ choice. And teachers have enough to do without asking them to make sure the kids are keeping their masks on, said Sarah Kolakoski.
“Teachers can’t be the mask police,” she said.
The Kolakoskis say they plan to present the petition to the School Board on Aug. 18, along with information they have collected that they say shows masks on children are ineffective and can carry germs that cause pneumonia and increase carbon dioxide to unhealthy levels.
Leary told the Reformer he has reviewed the emails received so far and has talked to staff at the schools; he said the input from both groups has been split about 50/50.
Leary said he will make his own decision based on the input he receives from the committee and from the public, but he is personally sitting on the fence on this matter.
“I am as sick of this pandemic stuff as every parent out there,” he said.
He and the other board members will review the suggestions, take input from the public and also review the recommendations from the N.H. Department of Education, the N.H. Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Pediatric Association, before making a decision.
“We also have to listen to our school nurses, who are our paid health care professionals,” he said. “We are looking at this every single day to make the best decision we can.”
Normally, the School Board sets aside 10 minutes for public input. Leary expects to set aside between 45 and 60 minutes at the Aug. 18 meeting.
“How much time each person will have depends on how many show up,” he said.
Leary said that while the board values public opinion, there are many factors to be considered including the safety of the district staff, as well as the students.
He expects whatever conclusion the board reaches, the response will be the same as to the decisions the board made last year.
“Half of the people will be happy and the other half will be mad,” he said. “We are in Year 2 of a no-win scenario.”
“We’re just asking that mask wearing be optional so that parents can decide,” Jay Kolakoski said.