Tensions Run High At The Board Of Education Meeting

Arguments over COVID-19 policy reach an all-time high with the beginning of the school year closing in


Alix Queen

Sruthi Ramesh (12) gives a speech to the Board of Education about district COVID-19 policy.

Sean Bruce, Reporter

As the policies for the upcoming school year were up for debate at the most recent Board of Education meeting, citizens of the district gathered to voice their opinions. The meeting on Aug. 18 at Holt High School was probably the most well-attended meeting with more than 100 people coming out to the meeting.

The groups that represented themselves were there to keep masks optional or to oppose the previous group and plead for a mandate. The group pulling for the optional mask policy sported shirts that said “We Will Not Comply” and “I Do Not Co-Parent With The Government”. Signs proclaiming “Free the Smiles”, “45,000 dead to the vaccine” and “No Mask Mandate” were also spotted in the audience.

As the meeting was called to order, most of the audience said the pledge of allegiance and the district’s mission statement before official board business commenced. One of the first items to come up was the recognition of the Pearce Hall graduates. Scout Schwab attended the board meeting to receive her diploma and shake the hand of Superintendent Dr. Curtis Cain. MoAMP recognition and certificates were also given to two students of the program in front of the audience. 

Then came the main event, the public forum portion of the meeting that two news stations in the area came to film. Only 10 speakers are allowed to speak at each meeting so several people arrived at the meeting over an hour early to secure a spot. Public Forum in recent months has been overtaken by speeches dealing almost exclusively with the COVID-19 pandemic. This meeting was quite different however, there was a diverse subject pool that the speakers covered. Three students and a few adults gave their positions on the COVID-19 policies our district outlined, but one speaker truly gained some attention. 

A man at the meeting spoke not to the board, but to the community in attendance online and in-person to not sign the Responsible Use Policy (RUP) that all students must have signed to have access to the school’s networks and technology. He continued on by stating that the RUP contained a clause that absolved the district of all legal liability in the instance of a data leak. As the man finished speaking, whispers coming from concerned parents and stakeholders ran rampant in the audience. The subject was later discussed in open session when Director Sandy Garber inquired about what would happen if a majority of students did not sign the RUP.

2021-2022 Mitigation & Prevention Strategies (Approved by the Board of Education July 13, 2021) (Wentzville School District)

The Superintendent’s Report was another rather controversial part of the meeting, both because of the content of his presentation and also how the audience responded. The district has significantly eased up on policies and restrictions on WSD campuses despite a chart they sourced showing that cases are back on the rise. Masks are no longer required within the schools or offices, but due to the federal mandate, they are still required on transportation. Masking is a choice for all students but sanitization and hand washing areas will still be readily available to all students and staff, as well as cleaner and rags in teacher classrooms. The nurses’ stations in every school will still be deep cleaned every day as they would even if it were not such a strange time. Vaccination is available to all students 12 and up and accommodations for disabled students will always be available. The teacher COVID-19 testing station has been closed but testing resources are still abundant in the community.

The issue of contact tracing angered several audience members when it came up. All positive cases will still be sent to the St. Charles County Health Department as well as seating charts of the positive student. Exposure letters will also be sent to parents who had a child in contact with a positive case. Fully vaccinated, masked students without symptoms, and students in similar situations will not be asked to quarantine whereas unvaccinated students who choose not to mask may be asked to, depending on their situation. This caused some frustration with the parents and stakeholders who had skepticism about this system as it relates to their children.

Cain also introduced updated protocols and expectations for students who have to learn virtually for an extended period of time. It is basically the same as last year but updated to fit the elementary schools that now have 1:1 technology to student status. Director Jason Goodson hammered this point home with an emphasis on making sure the quarantined students knew what was expected of them as they learn from home.

The final section of the agenda, new business, consisted of three change orders for South Middle School, the vote for the name of the new middle school, a COVID-19 leave policy as well as a request for more nurses in the district, and a bid for a FACS room at Timberland among other things. The session was adjourned at 9:18 p.m.