Faribault public school board votes to follow CDC mask guidelines

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

Almost a month ago, the school board adopted COVID-19 protocols that strongly encouraged but did not require masks.

Several people have spoken in favor of the mask requirement and several people have spoken against before the board votes.

It was almost half an hour after the meeting started before the school board meeting began as some members of the public refused to wear a mask.

The school board took two breaks to ask people to mask themselves in the district building in accordance with their COVID-19 protocols.

Eventually, people complied.

The school board also voted to rescind the district incident command committee from establishing COVID protocols at the committee’s request. Superintendent Todd Sesker told the board the 35-person committee hopes to stay in place as an advisory committee.

The ultimate protocols must be implemented by the school board.

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

The recommendations were included in the school board kit and are as follows:

Face cover:

For Kindergarten to Grade 12 students, staff, visitors, and volunteers, the CDC Transmission Matrix will be used to determine when masks are highly recommended or required based on the county’s seven-day case rate. Rice per 100,000 inhabitants.

  • Masks will be STRONGLY RECOMMENDED indoors for anyone 5 years of age and older if transmission of COVID-19 in Rice County is “low” (0-9 cases per 100,000 population) or “moderate” (10 -49 cases per 100,000).
  • Masks will be MANDATORY indoors for anyone aged 5 and over, 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 upper (or lower) level for at least seven consecutive days.

Level of transmission Low Moderate Substantial High
Case for 100,000 Spread Spread Spread Spread
0-9.99 10-49.99 50-99.99 ≥100

Table adapted from Center for Disease Control and Prevention

School buses

Wearing a face cover is MANDATORY by all staff and students traveling in school buses and other vehicles as part of educational programs (e.g. other activities, high school athletics, etc.) in accordance with the decree. Federal CDC.

The following face coverings are acceptable:

  • Paper or disposable mask;
  • Face mask made of fabric;
  • Scarf;
  • Neck warmer;
  • Bandana;
  • Religious face cover, and
  • Medical grade masks and respirators.

Council members Richard Olson and Casie Steeves cast the dissenting voices. Olson said he didn’t trust the CDC or the Minnesota Department of Health because they have been “all over” on the matter.

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

Wolff said ahead of the vote that it was a very difficult decision, but he would vote for the CDC’s recommendations so that students can be as safe as possible and stay in school.

Board member Jerry Robicheau introduced the motion and John Bellingham supported the implementation of the CDC schools recommendations.

Robicheau echoed Wolff in stating that if it saves “a life,” it’s worth it.

Faribault Public School Board at a special meeting. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld

Man, I feel old when I see this but it’s interesting.

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