Emerald Isle, N.C.
Sept 23, 2021
TO THE EDITOR:
In light of the recent Board of Education meetings I feel that we need to press pause for a minute and look at what has occurred. On August 18th a Special Meeting was called to address reinstating the mask mandate due to the increasing numbers of Covid cases. Please note that public comment is not normally allowed at ‘Special Meetings’ but a last-minute motion was made by board member Travis Day to take public comments.
It was quite amazing to see how many people showed up with prepared statements when they did not believe they would be allowed to speak. Or perhaps they had been told to prepare - who knows? In that meeting we heard from parents, students, medical professionals, and the head of our Health Department. Differing opinions as expected but we all know Covid, masks, vaccines, etc. have been a hot button topic for over 18 months so no surprises there.
In the end, the board voted to enact a mask mandate for students and then re-address at the upcoming regular BOE meeting on 9/7. It should be noted that it was also at this meeting that they reduced the quarantine time from 10 to 7 days.
On 9/7 the Board met at Morehead Primary School for their standard monthly meeting. The crowd was again lively and wanted to be active throughout the conversations which made hearing the board members a little tricky. Again, no surprises there as we knew the board would be discussing the mask mandate during the meeting. What did surprise me was the way one of our board members talked about the school staff. Twice during the meeting, Mr. Day referred to our school nurses as “Covid Nazis.”
Now I know there are very different opinions about masks, quarantines, etc. but I don’t understand how school nurses doing the job they were hired to do makes them similar to a Nazi in any way. I feel this is one thing that everyone can agree on (which is hard to find around here these days). If I’m hired to do a job, my employer gives me tasks to do, and I follow those tasks, I would be humiliated and angered to have someone refer to me as a Nazi in a large public meeting. I publicly request that Mr. Day shadow our school nurses, one day in each school, so he can truly see how amazing these people are and what they are faced with day to day. Since he’s obviously not going to make a public apology, perhaps spending time with these staff members will help him see how wrong he is about our school administrators and school staff. And since Mr. Day is obviously medically exempt from wearing a mask he can better assist when the sick children come to the nurse’s office.
And how do I know Mr. Day must be medically exempt? Well, that’s because he walked right into Croatan High School without a mask on the morning of 9/23 for another one of those ‘Special Meetings’ that the board can call out of the blue. Lo and behold, no public comment was allowed at this meeting. And the board members did not engage in any arguments; it was the most civil meeting we’ve seen in months. This meeting concluded quickly with the board unanimously voting to make masks optional once our positivity rate drops below 5%.
Why can’t we have more meetings where some board members are not pandering to the crowd, trying to incite anger over what is already a heated topic? How did making decisions about the wellbeing of children and best options for keeping them in the classroom become a place to pontificate on one’s opinions of masks, CDC guidelines, medical beliefs?
The Board of Education is tasked with putting the children’s needs first – not a political party line, or other ideological belief.
I’m tired of all the arguing about masks, vaccines, and quarantines. Everyone is just plain tired of Covid and all the pain it has caused so many – and I truly do understand both sides of the mask debate. I truthfully abhor wearing a mask, but I also know that my comfort doesn’t eclipse someone else’s safety. Nor do my ideological thoughts on mandates overshadow the impacts these decisions will have on many families in our community.
So, I leave you with just one example in our small community - imagine a family where the mother is battling Stage 4 cancer and is trying to give her child the most normal childhood possible in light of our current Covid situation. Do you think she would rather give him the normalcy of not wearing a mask yet unable to be near his mother out of fear that she catches the virus? Or do you think he’d be happier wearing a mask and able to come home and hug his mother?
Seems pretty simple to me – we are supposed to protect the weakest and most fragile. At least I thought we lived in a community where we would try to do that, to be willing to take some discomfort to ensure others can feel just a little bit of normalcy after how hard last year was for everyone.
I’m not sure when we lost our course but the anger, name calling, and vitriol has become its own kind of virus and we seem to be spreading it faster than Covid.