The national debate on wearing masks and remote learning in public schools became local for the Chadron School Board Monday night when about a dozen parents questioned the members about plans for the new school year and expressed their concerns about both topics.
The parents, led by Chance and Lisa Kvistad, said they felt their children would be denied an adequate education if the district spent all but the first few weeks in remote learning-only and that being forced to wear masks would significantly reduce the ability of students to adequately learning.
The discussion lasted for more than an hour, but in a big difference from what’s often occurred elsewhere it remained calm and polite on both sides despite the obvious emotions involved. The parents frequently thanked the board for listening with board members and district administrators just as frequently thanking the parents for bringing their concerns and data to them.
Both sides expressed frustration over the lack of firm answers in some areas – such as the district being unable to say how many students would need to be COVID-19 positive to trigger mandatory use of masks or to close buildings and return to remote learning only. They were told those guidelines are still being determined at the regional, state, and federal levels – drawing the response from the parents that they need to know those answers so they can make other educational arrangements for their kids if most of the school year will be remote learning-only.
The parents urged the board to emphasize to state officials that conditions in Chadron are much different than those in Omaha, so local judgement should be allowed in making such decisions. They also said they felt students are being discriminated against because of their age since they’re at little risk from COVID-19 but have to wear masks and follow other rules intended to protect older people.