Protesters and counterprotesters descended on the Thompson School District administration building Wednesday night as the board of education weighed a new mask mandate for students in the district.
After taking hours of input, at about 10:30 p.m. the Thompson School District approved a mandate requiring pre-K to eighth-grade students, staff and visitors to wear masks at all times while indoors effective Monday, Aug. 23.
Opponents of a mask mandate outnumbered those who favored one, but both were represented during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Both the board meeting room and a second overflow room were filled to capacity, and over a hundred remained outside, listening to what was being said in the building through a set of loudspeakers arranged by the protest’s organizers.
An approximately 25-second delay separated what was said inside and what was heard outside the building.
After the delay, the crowd outside cheered when a speaker expressed an anti-mask sentiment and jeered and booed if somebody spoke in favor.
One major point of contention among the crowd was an email sent by board member Lori Hvizda Ward to Larimer County commissioner Jody Shadduck-McNally encouraging the Board of County Commissioners to enact a countywide mask mandate.
“Boulder County has shown decisive leadership by mandating mask wearing in schools,” Hvizda Ward wrote to Shadduck-McNally on Monday. “Tri-County Health (Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties) at this very moment is considering enacting a mask mandate for schools. Larimer County, like Weld County, appears to be unwilling even to consider a mask mandate.”
“Commissioners Kefalas and Stephens are aware of our request for the County to act on this. The County has the authority to enact health orders, which the school district is tasked with following. I am at a loss to understand the reluctance, unless it’s purely political.”
Critics like Larimer County GOP Chairman Ron Weinberg argued that the board is seeking a mandate without having to take the blame, and numerous commenters demanded Hvizda Ward’s resignation.
“We assume the reason for asking County to do so is because she doesn’t want to take responsibility and instead wants to use the County mandate as a scapegoat,” Weinberg wrote to the Reporter-Herald in an email.
Board Vice President Pam Howard pushed back, saying there was nothing corrupt about one public servant contacting another.
“That is not corruption, that is how government works,” Howard said over boos.
Three police officers, all student resource officers in the district’s schools, were present Wednesday night, to “ensure things remained civil,” according to Sgt. Bob Rabson.
The crowd inside, quiet at first but increasingly energized as the night wore on, booed when the board took a 15-minute recess 90 minutes into the meeting.
“Don’t take off your mask in the bathroom Lori,” one audience member shouted at board member Hvizda Ward.
Brian Riddle, a parent in the Thompson School District who stood in the back of the meeting room with his family, said that he came to the meeting to insist that masking children remain a choice of the child’s parents.
“They’re my kids,” Riddle said. “If I send them to school and they get sick, they’re my kids.”
“It’s on us,” his wife Rachael added.
Riddle added that he wasn’t concerned about safety, saying that his family had COVID earlier in the year and the symptoms were no worse than a common cold.
A panel earlier Wednesday afternoon featuring hospital administrators and medical experts said that data indicates the latest variant of COVID-19, the “delta variant,” is more contagious than previous variants of the virus, and poses a greater risk to children, especially because their vaccination rates are below the rest of the population.
Maureen Dower, a Berthoud Town Board member, stayed at the outskirts of the mass of protesters with a few others wearing masks, and said she was discouraged at the size of the protest.
“Former Thompson School District Superintendent Stan Scheer died of COVID on Dec. 13, 2020,” Dower said. “Where did he get it from? What wisdom would Stan Scheer give if he were still here?”
Source: Read Full Article