On a 5-2 vote tonight the Faribault Public School Board voted to require masks in schools when transmission rates are above certain levels per CDC guidelines for schools.

Nearly a month ago the School Board passed COVID-19 protocols that strongly encouraged but did not mandate masks.

Several people spoke in favor of requiring masks and several people spoke in opposition before the board took the vote.

It was nearly a half hour after the meeting was supposed to start before the School Board meeting would get underway because some members of the audience refused to wear a mask.

The School Board took two recesses asking people to mask up in the District Building per their COVID-19 protocols.

Eventually people did comply.

The School Board also voted to rescind the Incident Command Committee of the district from setting the COVID protocols at the Committee's request.  Superintendent Todd Sesker told the board the 35 person committee hopes to remain in place as an advisory committee.

The ultimate protocols are to be implemented by the School Board.

Board Chair Chad Wolff read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation for schools adopted by the board action.

The recommendations were included in the School Board Packet and are:

Face Coverings:

For K-12 students, staff, visitors and volunteers, the CDC transmission matrix will be referred to for determining when masks are strongly recommended or required based on the Rice County seven-day case rate per 100,000 residents.

  • Masks will be strongly RECOMMENDED indoors for everyone age 5 and older if transmission of COVID-19 in Rice County is "Low" (0-9 cases per 100,000 residents) or "Moderate" (10-49 cases per 100,000).
  • Masks will be REQUIRED indoors for everyone age 5 and older, regardless of vaccination status, if transmission is "Substantial" (50-99 cases per 100,000) or "High" (greater than or equal to 100 cases per 100,000).

Changes from recommended to required (or vice versa) will be made after case rates remain at the higher (or lower) level for at least seven consecutive days.

Transmission Level            Low             Moderate      Substantial       High
Cases per 100,000          Spread           Spread           Spread          Spread
0-9.99            10-49.99        50-99.99         ≥100

Table adapted from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention

School Buses

Face coverings are REQUIRED to be worn by all staff and students riding in school buses and other vehicles as part of instructional programming (e.g. to and from school, field trips, educational outings), and co-curricular activities (e.g. after-school sports and other activities, high school athletics, etc) per the CDC’s federal order.

The following face coverings are acceptable:

  • Paper or disposable mask;
  • Cloth face mask;
  • Scarf;
  • Neck gaiter;
  • Bandana;
  • Religious face covering, and
  • Medical-grade masks and respirators.

Board members Richard Olson and Casie Steeves cast the dissenting votes.  Olson said he didn't trust the CDC or Minnesota Department of Health because they've been, "all over the board" on the issue.

Steeves said trust was not an issue with her but she felt the best thing for her family was to allow them to make the decision.

Wolff stated before the vote was taken it was a very difficult decision but he would vote for the CDC recommendations so students could be as safe as possible and stay in school.

Board member Jerry Robicheau made the motion and John Bellingham seconded to implement the CDC school recommendations.

Robicheau echoed Wolff stating if it saves "one life" it's worth it.

Faribault Public School Board at Special Meeting. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld
Faribault Public School Board at Special Meeting. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld

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