Mask discussion goes on at NACS
13 Apr 2021 — Journal Gazette
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Mike Moore | The Journal GazetteAn Allen County resident speaks during Monday's NACS school board meeting at Carroll High School.
Ashley Sloboda

People calling for an end to Northwest Allen County Schools' mask mandate returned to the school board microphone Monday : and so did those pleading for the mandate to remain.

Masked and unmasked audience members filled socially distanced seats in Carroll High School's cafeteria, and others stood along the walls. About 30 people : including employees, parents and students : addressed the board during public comment.

At least two uniformed sheriff's officers monitored the proceedings.

Board President Kent Somers asked speakers to identify themselves as a district resident or employee. The board previously has asked speakers to say their names and addresses. Not everyone provided their names.

Some speakers reiterated or clarified statements made at the board meeting two weeks ago about their desire to scrap the school mask mandate. They aren't anti-mask, they said, but "mask choice."

One parent supporting mask choice said he wants NACS to have a plan. He described mask-wearing at school as an experiment, and claimed masks don't protect anybody, despite health officials saying otherwise.

"This isn't based on science," the parent said, demanding local data. "It's an overreaction."

Dr. Matthew Sutter, Allen County health commissioner, reiterated in emailed statements to The Journal Gazette last week that precautionary measures : including mask-wearing, social distancing, frequent hand-washing and avoiding large crowds : slow the spread of COVID-19.

NACS Superintendent Chris Himsel two weeks ago credited mask-wearing and other mitigation strategies for having fewer than 10 district cases linked to in-school transmission despite having more than 400 student and employee infections.

Those supporting the mask mandate included a teacher with a high-risk pregnancy. She said dropping the requirement would jeopardize her and her child's health.

A pediatrician stressed COVID-19 hasn't disappeared, and its effects on children can be serious, including heart failure.

"This is a very dangerous thing for kids still," said the pediatrician, who also identified as a district resident.

A district employee said she got COVID-19 seven months ago and continues to suffer from a related condition that might be permanent.

"Nothing smells correct anymore," she said. "It's terrible. It's awful to live with."

Sheri West, NACS corporation nurse, is concerned about children suffering from the virus' lingering effects.

"There's so much we don't know about COVID," West said.

Carroll High School senior Reid Syverson, 18, described his health care job, which has involved time in a hospital COVID wing.

"It's easy to complain about the masks," he said. "But take one walk down the COVID unit, and you won't. I wish I could tell you what I see. I will tell you that it's not just the old, or those with preexisting health conditions. It can be anybody."

Himsel understands people are eager to return to normalcy, but the district will continue to comply with the governor's order and follow advice from health experts.

A work session about the district's coronavirus protocols is set for 6 p.m. April 21 at Carroll High School.

This story is provided free courtesy of The Fort Wayne Newspapers.
"Mask discussion goes on at NACS" Journal Gazette 13 Apr 2021: A3