Anti-mask crowd gathers at the Spokane School Board meeting as another year of covered faces in the class draws near

They brought signs. Some even brought their children with them.

For the most part, the 200 attendees who packed the Spokane Public Schools board meeting on Wednesday night brought their frustration at the prospect of their children being forced to wear masks when they return to class next month.

Governor Jay Inslee’s mandate that students and staff wear masks to stop the spread of COVID-19 may have given political cover to Spokane and other counties, but speakers on Wednesday didn’t care.

“Our governor is a fool and I’m tired of my kids being exhausted from wearing a mask,” said one man.

Speakers discussed the impact on their children’s emotional, physical and academic well-being and called for parents to choose when school starts on September 2nd. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended masks even for fully vaccinated individuals in some settings. because of the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant.

“We need your help, not your resistance,” said Russell Neff, who spoke about the negative effects of masks on his 14-year-old daughter. “This is what you were chosen to do: to support parents and students who are the real stakeholders.”

Another parent, Marshall Casey, recalled his family’s decision to have their children at home.

“Fortunately, we have resources, but others don’t have the resources,” said Casey, who concluded on a reprimand from the current board of directors.

“Over the past year you’ve proven yourself to be untrustworthy,” Casey said.

Like other anti-mask speakers, Casey received applause. Two speakers weighed in with pro-mask comments and were greeted by the crowd with mocking words.

The public testimony was followed by a report about the start of school, in which the obligation of staff and students to wear masks regardless of vaccination status was repeated.

Key reopening strategies include a focus on reduced class sizes, social and emotional learning support, intervention services and support, lesson planning, and individual school staffing.

Students can take off their masks while eating or outdoors. According to the language in the plan, “Should schools continue to … encourage social distancing, it cannot be a reason to restrict personal teaching.”

Lunch, performing arts, and athletics guidelines are evaluated. Contact tracking and testing will be available.

After summarizing the back-to-school plan, Superintendent Adam Swinyard reiterated the implications of Inlsee’s mandate. He highlighted the message from State Superintendent Chris Reykdal, who threatened to cut funding for any district that contradicts the mandate.

“OSPI made that very clear,” he said. “That’s the money we’re getting.”

Then a spectator interfered.

“How much do you lose if we pull our children?” asked the man. Swinyard countered by offering to speak to him after the meeting.

“All of this is unparalleled in every way, shape and form,” said Swinyard, who said earlier this summer he was hoping the area’s vaccination status would have given the district more scope for masks.

Instead, the rise of the Delta variant put an end to that hope.

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