MENNO SCHOOL BOARD: NO TO MASK MANDATE
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
Students at Menno Public School are no longer required to wear a mask, even if a teacher asks them to, per a resolution unanimously passed by the Menno School Board of Education in special session Monday night, Aug. 24.
The resolution reads as follows: “The Menno School Board of Education strongly encourages anyone who wants to wear a mask, that they wear a mask, but it is the Menno board’s policy that it is not mandatory by anyone to wear a mask for students and staff.”
The resolution went into effect Tuesday, Aug. 25 and goes against the expectation set by first-year superintendent Tom Rice, who had required face coverings in the hallways and in the lunch line, and also gave full authority to individual teachers to require them in their classrooms.
“I am going to respect school policy because that is my job,” Rice told the Courier Tuesday morning. “I serve at the will of the board.”
In an email to staff members following Monday’s meeting, Rice asked them to respect the board’s decision and move forward with respect for the individual’s right.
“Please do not harass, intimidate, shame or bully a person to wear a mask,” he wrote. “In the same sense, do not harass, intimidate, shame or bully a person who chooses to wear a mask.”
Rice said the school will continue to make masks available to those who want one, and will also continue to wash the face coverings.
Monday’s special meeting included attorney Rodney Freeman and lasted about two hours. Rice said as many as 15 people spoke during the public input session, including parents, teachers and members from the larger community.
“The majority of them were in favor of wearing masks, but the crux of this issue is that teachers were allowed to set the rule on masks,” he said. “I said that teachers will have 100% backing of the administration, and they didn’t like that. There was a very strong sentiment that, yes, we will strongly encourage, but we will never mandate. Personal choice is where we’re at.”
Rice noted that it’s important that those in the district move forward with positive attitudes, regardless of how they feel about face coverings.
“It’s not the adversity, it’s how we deal with it,” he said. “I love being here; I have such wonderful people to work with. If we have issues that come up, good or bad, how we handle it is going to matter. I am here for the betterment of my students and staff.”