“Move to mandate masks on the move for all students and staff effective August 26, 2020.”
That motion passed at the Camdenton R-III Board of Education meeting on Tuesday morning, Aug. 25, with all but one member voting for it. The only board member who voted against it was Callie Henze, who was just elected to the board in June of 2020.
“My phone has been ringing off the hook ever since I left the meeting this morning,” Henze said. “People are outraged.”
Henze claims she was “completely blindsided” to hear the board would be considering a ‘mask on the move’ mandate at Tuesday’s meeting. That issue had not been placed on the agenda and was discussed under the broader “School Reopening Update” agenda item. The motion to mandate masks was made, seconded, and passed under that agenda item. “I feel like it was an administrative decision” to bring up the issue, Henze said, rather than a board decision.
Henze added, “I have been inundated all day… our board inbox has been flooded all day with people that are upset.”
“I know a lot of parents would have come and spoke up if they had known that was even going to be on the discussion,” Henze said.
“The school is owned by the taxpayers of our community! So why would we not ask them what they want?" she asked. Henze also noted, “When they sent out a teacher survey [earlier this year], the teachers were asked to rate what was most important, as far as re-entering [the classroom]… rank it. Masks, for teachers and students, was on the very bottom of both of those lists.”
Henze also worried about the new layer of challenges the mask mandate poses to teachers, especially of elementary students. “What do you think’s going to be the job of the teacher now? To make sure Johnny has his mask on?”
The complaint Henze says she's been hearing since Tuesday morning was, "I wouldn’t have sent my kid to school if I knew that this was going to be a requirement." An email has been sent by the district to all parents that if they don’t like the new mask mandate, they can switch to Virtual Learning by Sept. 4.
Key Moments From The Meeting:
15:30 — CHS Nurse Rhonda Franken said Lake Regional Pediatrician Dr. Shari Neill reached out to her, saying she was concerned that the district was not requiring masks. Nurse Franken said Neill recommended “that we do ‘Masks On The Move’… masking kids when they’re out of their seats.”
'Masks On The Move' defined as: “When they’re up and moving, that’s when they should wear a mask. High school, when they’re traveling in between classes, that’s when they should have a mask on. If they’re out of their seat in small groups, they have a mask on.”
17:40 — Nurse Franken: “I just feel like right now, doing nothing and ignoring the data and the research is just gonna set us up for failure.”
18:15 — Superintendent Tim Hadfield: “We thought that encouraging kids… come at it from a positive way… ‘Hey, we encourage you to mask-up, we expect you to…’ That’s not happening, so we feel we need to take another step with that.”
19:05 — Board Member Henze: “I don’t feel like we’ve done nothing. I feel like we have given our parents the choice to make that decision… we have to listen to, I feel like, what our community wants and whether they want to proceed with that, and I think that the way we do that is give them choice.” She added one teacher told her she was already expecting that “going virtual” was inevitable.
21:30 — Board Member Eric Walters: “I go to Wal-Mart and I get stopped by four or five people that say, ‘Are we mandating that our kids wear masks this year?… Well why not?”
22:55 — Board Member Courtney Hulett: “So in my opinion we’ve already surveyed the community, I mean we’ve had 83 percent of people say they wanted in-seat learning, so we need to do our best to provide that. Masks are the smartest way to go. If parents feel like that’s infringing on their personal rights, we have options for them to keep their kids at home… I would recommend we put our teachers in some sort of eye-protection, so we can keep our classrooms open.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, the video had 5,900+ views, 46 shares, and 165 comments. There were 48 “Angry” emote reactions on the video, as well. However, of those 165 comments, only 3 were visible: each inquiring about where all the other comments had gone. A little later Tuesday afternoon, those comments were hidden too, and the District’s page had commented the following: “Due to the social restrictions of COVID-19, Camdenton Schools cannot host School Board meetings in a traditional fashion that allows patrons to attend in person. As a result, we have been streaming our meetings on Facebook Live as a courtesy to our community. We will not be hosting comments, positive or negative, about the Board’s meeting on our Facebook page.”
This appears to be a sudden change from previous practice, as the board had allowed comments—and even responded to them—on previous live-streamed board meeting videos.
In some states, courts have ruled it is a violation of the Constitution for public entities to remove comments on their official pages except in cases of abuse or illegal speech; LakeExpo has reached out to the Missouri Attorney General’s Office to clarify the legality of the Board’s actions.
The board of education’s official email account as well as Superintendent Tim Hadfield did not respond to requests for comment.