By Sam Wildow
TROY — Over 30 parents and community members attended the Troy Board of Education’s meeting on Monday in protest of potential face mask requirements for school in the fall, about which the board has made no official decision.
The board alluded to a potential policy that would make face masks optional once school starts in the fall, but the board declined to make any decisions official until early August.
“The district has not made a policy decision about masks in the fall,” Board President Tom Kleptz said. “We’re waiting to see what happens.”
Kletpz reminded parents that the district has been holding summer school without masks.
“We had no issues,” Kleptz said about summer school. “If the decision was to be made today, I’m sure we would follow the CDC guidelines. If you’re vaccinated, fine. If you’ve not been vaccinated, wear a mask, but we’re not going to be checking people at the door whether they were vaccinated or not. At the present time, we would probably not be asking for masks if things stay as is.”
During public comment, Mary Meyer of Troy requested the board “follow industrial hygiene science and make masks optional for everyone in Troy City Schools.”
Mary Meyer said a policy that would require masks only for unvaccinated students and staff would be “discriminatory” and create an environment of “mask shaming and bullying.”
“Not everyone can get the vaccine,” Mary Meyer said, noting concerns about heart inflammation in children, as well as those who may have an allergic reaction. She said that at-risk adults in students’ homes have had the opportunity to get vaccinated themselves.
“It’s time to take off the masks,” Mary Meyer said.
When attendees asked why the board had not made a decision yet as to masks in the fall while other local school districts have, Kleptz explained that was due to what happened last year when some districts had to go back on their decisions and change policies in order to follow state guidance.
“We were directed, by the time school started, what we were going to do,” Kleptz said. He explained the board did not want to make a decision that they would have to go back and change.
Superintendent Chris Piper said he does anticipate seeing some state guidance in regard to coming school year. The district had not received any state guidance yet as of this meeting.
“How do you explain to your kids that they’re possibly going to have to wear a mask when they see everybody out not wearing a mask,” Todd Emery of Troy said. “It should be the parents’ decision.”
“My daughters come up to me crying because they don’t want to go to school,” Emery said.
Later during public comment, Kleptz noted the board does hear from parents who want face masks to be required, which prompted the community members to request for a survey to be taken.
“This is the year to take some leadership,” James Meyer of Troy said.
He said those who have not gotten the vaccine are exercising their “God-given freewill” and “constitutional right to say, ‘I don’t think I need that.’”
“Everybody can still wear a mask if they want to, but I think forcing, especially the unvaccinated kids … I can’t understate the impact that will have upon them,” James Meyer said. “I happened to experience that right now at my current work, to where if you’re unvaccinated, you have to wear a mask, and it is splitting the department.”
Kevin Wuebker of Troy also expressed his opposition to face mask requirements. He said that if parents need to sign a waiver for their children not to have to wear a mask, his wife and he would be willing to do that.
Another parent stated the teacher for her child last year did not know what her child looked like without a mask.
“I have a problem with that,” she said.
Other parents spoke about concerns regarding children’s mental health, and some questioned why the district would have to follow state guidelines. Board member Doug Trostle said the district does receive funding from the state, suggesting that the state’s funding could potentially be the state’s leverage in order to get compliance from the district. He noted the state had not done that yet.
Kleptz reiterated that the board is going to make a decision in a couple weeks, giving parents the date of Aug. 2 of when the decision will be made available.
“Every indicator is pointing in a positive direction,” Piper said.
Board member Susan Borchers later spoke, saying that she was “equally frustrated” as the community members in attendance.
“It’s not fair to you, it’s not fair to the students,” Borchers said. “I get it, I hear you.”
Board member Ginny Beamish said that she heard what all of the attendees were saying and that she disagreed “with very little.” Board member Michael Ham agreed with Beamish’s statement.
Trostle said he appreciated the respectful discussion and that they would try to get school “as close to normal as possible.”