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Shaw: Fargo School Board gets it right

West Fargo and Moorhead School Board members must ask what’s worse, wearing a mask or becoming deathly ill from COVID-19?

Jim Shaw
Jim Shaw
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With COVID-19 cases rapidly surging around here, congrats to the Fargo School Board for doing the safe and smart thing, by requiring students and teachers to wear masks in the schools. Meantime, it’s shocking that the West Fargo and Moorhead School Boards have irresponsibly decided against that. By refusing to protect students and teachers during a public health crisis, and not following the science, those school boards are guilty of dereliction of duty. Making masks optional is toothless.

It’s stunning that those school boards have ignored the expertise and urgent pleas from the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Fargo Cass Public Health, and the Minnesota Department of Health. In West Fargo, they copped out by sending a survey to parents, asking what they should do. Taking a survey about a public health crisis is foolish, cowardly and dangerous.

When my doctor tells me the treatment I need, I don’t send out a survey to thousands of strangers, many of them uninformed, asking what I should do.

So, because of the weakness and ineptitude from these school boards, many teachers and parents are rightfully frightened.

“I don’t like teaching in a mask, but we have an obligation to keep our kids safe," said Moorhead teacher Kelly Gerchak. “We need to be vigilant and follow the science, and that means wearing masks. Masks are proven to be effective. By ignoring the evidence and science, we’re not good role models for our students…If masks aren’t mandated in school, I could potentially be a carrier. My grandchildren aren’t eligible to be vaccinated, and I don’t want to expose them to COVID.”

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Karla Brewster taught full time in the Moorhead schools for 24 years before becoming a substitute teacher. “I will not be teaching now as long as masks are not required,” Brewster said. “It’s scary for me. I could infect someone else. I don’t understand the board’s decision. The children wore masks last year. They weren’t complaining.”

“I am very frightened for the well-being of our students,” said a West Fargo teacher, who is afraid to be identified. “We are putting them in a high risk environment. When we know better and we refuse to do better, we’re being negligent. I have a grave concern that students will get very sick, and possibly die.”

“I am shocked with the board’s decision,” said Moorhead parent Lindsie Schoenack. “Masks work to prevent the spread of COVID."

Jessica Kendall is looking at moving her two children from the West Fargo School District to the Fargo district. “I am angry, frustrated and worried,” Kendall said. “We should be proactive, not reactive. Why can’t we learn from the mistakes down South? We know that having unmasked individuals around unvaccinated students is a bad recipe.”

West Fargo and Moorhead School Board members must ask what’s worse, wearing a mask or becoming deathly ill from COVID-19? They need to ask how many students, teachers and family members need to be infected before they require masks? Hopefully, they won’t need a survey to figure out the answers.

Click here for more from columnist Jim Shaw.

Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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