In a nearly four-hour meeting Monday, the Mustang Board of Education voted unanimously to require masks for students and staff from the fifth grade through high school when school opens.
Teachers in lower grades will be required to wear masks and to encourage students to do so, but the board members recognized that keeping masks on younger children is impractical.
The board wrestled with the details of safety protocols regarding COVID-19 that Superintendent Charles Bradley recommended.
“We always say that student safety is paramount,” Bradley said.
“Going through this plan to go back to school has a weight to it that I can’t even express. That weight is on every person here.”
The weight is compounded because the Mustang school district maintains its small-town feel although it has grown to have a large enrollment, he noted.
“These are our friends, these are our neighbors,” he said.
“In coming up with a plan, there is no right answer. What we tried to do was figure out how to have the best answers for people with the information given to us.”
The board moved back the opening one day, to Aug. 14, so teachers would have training on new technology for distance learning and other uses.
Bradley made the caveat that there’s no guarantee schools will open on time – because the fluid situation with COVID-19 potentially could delay things.
Board member Todd Lovelace said he doesn’t wear a mask, but he agreed to the mask policy because teachers favored strict requirements for them.
“We have to do whatever we can do to stay in school,” he said.
Board member Stacy Oldham, who also doesn’t wear a mask, concurred.
Mustang resident Dr. Adam Vascellaro, the chief medical officer for Citizen Potawatomi Nation Health Services, gave a passionate overview of his experience with the clinics he oversees.
Properly worn masks work better than anything else in reducing the risk of catching the virus, he said.
“I think this plan is a very good start,” he said.
Adults need to role models for students in wearing masks he said.
The plan is a bridge until a vaccine or a treatment or both are available, he said.
Board member Dedra Stafford expressed the same hope.
“This is just temporary,” she said.
Board member Jeff Landrith said that staff needs to emphasize to students the importance of wearing masks.
“We need to educate them that this is serious, not political,” he said.
Mark Webb, a high school science teacher and the vice president of the Mustang Education Association, said he spoke on behalf of teachers.
“I trust the people on this board, and I trust Mr. Bradley,” he said.
Board President Chad Schroeder summed up the board’s view.
“If we save just one life, it’s worth it,” he said.