By Linda Dillman
For the second time in two weeks, the Canal Winchester Board of Education gauged the pulse of the community and took a vote on whether or not to implement a mask mandate in the schools.
On Aug. 16, the board upheld the policy in place: masks strongly recommended but not required. Then on Aug. 31, a split 2-2 vote—with board member Kevin Butler absent from the meeting—resulted in the same decision, masks strongly recommended, but not required.
Another special meeting, with all members in attendance, could be called in the near future as positive COVID-19 positive cases and quarantining absences are on the rise.
Medical professional and mother Jennifer Dollery believes COVID is a virus just like the flu, H1N1, and the common cold that will not be eradicated with a vaccine or a mask. She alleges that studies show that personal immunity to the virus is exponentially better than a vaccine and that masks are mentally harmful to children.
“The virus is a nanoparticle and masks protect from macroparticles,” said Dollery. “The masks you all are wearing are not protecting you from anything but your own self.”
Dollery also alleged that the COVID test contains carcinogens and surgical masks need to be thrown away every 20 minutes, along with pointing out a YouTube video that indicates CO2 levels reaching a toxic level after 20 minutes of wear.
“How is this not considered child abuse?” asked Dollery. “We make the decision on who protects us. You are here to educate my child. This does not give you the right to tell us what we should be doing with our health in this situation.”
Christa Hull, who is an elementary teacher in another school district, called masks nothing more than Canal Winchester Local Schools trying to make it appear as if it is doing something to stop the spread. She said if parents want to send their kids to school masked, that’s fine.
“I should have the choice on whether or not to force my children to wear one,” said Hull, “especially when we know they don’t stop the spread and that’s (allegedly) scientific data that states that. If you do have some parents who feel they (kids) need to be masked up, why couldn’t we offer those students the same online option they had last year? So if these parents are nervous about their kid being at school with other students, they would have that online option.”
Speaking in favor of a mask mandate, health care professional Cassandra Davidson said Children’s Hospital is reeling from the influx of young patients identified as COVID positive and disagreed with allegations that surgical masks have to be discarded after 20 minutes.
“I don’t know any surgeon that takes off a surgical mask every 20 minutes to replace it,” said Davidson as she addressed the board. “I am angry with you all, but I’m more angry at myself for the trust I placed in your hands. I am tired of conspiracy theories that are going around and the sources that are being thrown around from YouTube videos. I have heard multiple people quote the constitution and the Bible and say it is our right. But with rights come responsibility.”
Davidson said all children have a right to an education that is presented in a safe manner.
“I think, at this point, we need to reevaluate what we’re doing because its not working,” said Davidson. “In the hospitals we are overwhelmed with all the cases coming in. With the Delta variant, we are seeing younger, healthier people who never thought they were going to get it are now with lungs that are filling up. They don’t make it.”
Board member Monika Talley, who voted against the current no mask mandate policy, said she wants to look at the advice being given school boards and recommendations from the state and Gov. Mike DeWine’s office.
Talley said she respects the opinions of people on both sides of the issue, but felt part of her job is to ensure a safe environment for all children and that masks are part of a layered approach in improving outcomes.
Board President Mike Yonnotti also wanted to see more data and that any change made by the board should be well thought out. He also voted against the current policy.
Board member Matt Krueger, who voted to retain the current masks not required policy along with board member Jon Metzler, reported that out of a total student and staff population of approximately 4,300 people, there are 24 diagnosed with COVID and 144 on quarantine.
“Twenty four positive cases for students is a very low percentage of students,” said Krueger. “If, in two weeks the numbers remain the same, I’m comfortable leaving things as is.”
Superintendent James Sotlar emphasized the current situation is apples and oranges compared to last school year when only a quarter of the students were in buildings at any one time and social distancing was much easier.
“This is totally different for us,” said Sotlar in describing the 2021-22 school year. “This is a new ball game. Everyday we’re learning something different. The best way for us to empower our kids for success is to keep them in school.”