At our most recent School Board Meeting, held on Monday, September 13, the decision was made to cancel the optional Public Forum and close the board meeting early after approving the consent agenda that contains items necessary for the operation of the School District. These decisions were made because community members entered the board room without following COVID safety measures that were clearly communicated and posted, making the meeting unsafe for participants. There were community members in attendance who refused to wear masks or face coverings altogether, or refused to wear masks or face coverings over both their mouths and noses. Masks were provided for every attendee who may not have had one upon entering the District Center and spaces to watch the live-streamed meeting were available to accommodate those individuals who were unable to wear a mask or face covering. This outcome was unfortunate and the district made considerable efforts to avoid it.
Our efforts this year focus on keeping our students safe and in our buildings for in-person learning. In order to do so, the White Bear Lake Area School District is following a Mitigation Plan that includes face coverings for all age 2+ regardless of vaccination status. For the safety of our students, staff and community members, it is important that those who visit our buildings, both during and after school hours, also follow the approved mitigation strategies and wear masks. The School Board has an obligation to follow the policies it has adopted to provide a safe environment for staff, students, and the community in attendance at board meetings.
The School Board must be able to conduct business at its meetings without safety concerns that could negatively impact student learning, so it is important that we reaffirm the following: Per Policy 808, Face Coverings, masks are required for those who wish to attend White Bear Lake Area School District Board meetings. A mask will continue to be provided for anybody who needs one. To accommodate those who cannot wear a mask, the meetings are available via Livestream and are viewable via Livestream in nearby District Center rooms.
It is our hope that we can get back to safe and respectful board meetings at which the School Board can utilize Public Forum to hear directly from community members and can give the most important topics that appear on the board agenda the attention and discussion they deserve.