Covid protocol debate continues for Naselle board
November 25, 2021
At a meeting held Nov. 16 at the Naselle school, the district board of directors heard public comments from a group of approximately 25 individuals who continued to voice ongoing concerns with state pandemic response protocols that they perceive as unacceptable.
The group spoke in the public comment portion of the meeting’s agenda for over two hours and illustrated their concerns with high emotions as they continued to express their beliefs about the testing on unvaccinated winter sports’ athletes as required under the Washington State Department of Health guidelines.
Another concern they raised was whether the board would support a mandate from the state requiring vaccinations of all students. The meeting followed the same patterns and issues of the last three meetings. The board responded that it cannot comment on something that hasn’t yet happened.
As a response to questions raised at the special meeting on November 3, Superintendent Lisa Nelson provided answers at this meeting both on paper and by projection on the wall. Many in the audience did not agree with the information she provided from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Several in the audience expressed strong objections regarding the current state guidelines for testing of basketball team members before they can play.
Some objected to the testing because the test is still under a clinical study. Current guidelines require that only those who have not had a vaccination would be tested.
The board made it clear that if the school district does not follow state guidelines, it would lose state apportioned funding.
In this writer's experience, public comment periods in meetings of the school board are intended to give the public limited time to give input before the business portion of the meeting begins. However, in the last two official board meetings, these issues have taken excessive time from the agenda and business of the board. As these discussions continue from meeting to meeting with the same basic objections to the guidelines and the same responses from the board indicating it has decided to follow the guidelines, the meetings continue to have limited time for district business and for addressing concerns which teachers, staff and other parents may have.
During the time left for business on the agenda, the board passed several action items: Approved hire of Marie Green, covid test administrator, through June 2022; adopt Policy 3411 Accommodating Students with Seizures; adopt Policy 5400 Personnel Leaves; accept donation from booster club, not to exceed $15,000.
Board member Tyson Vogeler moved to amend the agenda and add a statement on covid-19 testing of unvaccinated athletes and following other Department of Health guidelines. Vogeler noted the board had received excellent guidance from legal counsel. The motion was seconded and then Mr. Vogeler read a position statement he thought the board should consider adopting. Vogeler moved and Mrs. Chadwick seconded the motion to adopt the position statement. The board then voted 5 to 0 in support of its adoption.
The following is the school board’s Statement on COVID-19 Testing of Student Athletes and Other State-Required Health and Safety Practices:
The Board of Directors acknowledge the concerns expressed by some parents and students regarding the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association’s requirements for testing of unvaccinated student athletes in high-risk sports.
Furthermore, the Board acknowledges the concerns of other parents and students related to the possible increased risks of COVID-19 infections or outbreaks if health and safety protocols are not in place. Under the Governor’s proclamations (20-09.4 and 21-05.1) and CDC Guidance for K-12 schools, and because the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has enacted emergency rules to withhold state apportionment from districts that that do not fully comply with health and safety guidelines instituted by the Washington Department of Health, the Board cannot take any action contrary to those guidelines without jeopardizing the fiscal health of the entire District.
As such, one of the Board’s paramount duties is to set forth policy to support the educational programs of the district for the benefit of all students and to protect the health and safety of students and staff. Any action that would jeopardize the District’s state apportionment would be contrary to our commitment to our students and community.
Therefore, the Board of Directors recognizes the authority of the State to implement reasonable health and safety standards for public schools, including extra-curricular activities. The Board directs the Superintendent, Principal and Athletic Director to fully implement with fidelity the COVID -19 protocols established by the Washington State Department of Health and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, including the testing of unvaccinated student athletes in high-risk sports.
The Board also shares the concerns voiced by parents regarding the long-term impacts of health and safety mandates on the social-emotional well being of our students. We re-affirm our intent to continue working with parents, students, staff, state officials and local health offices to find workable solutions that both protect our students and staff, and enable them to learn and work in an environment that requires less-restrictive and less-invasive measures.
We wholeheartedly understand the difficulties created by the COVID-19 pandemic on our staff, students and community; we appreciate their support through these challenging decisions. Our priority of providing outstanding educational and extracurricular opportunities for our students will continue to guide our collective work as a Board of Directors.
In support of the District’s position, our signatures are below.
Chuck Hendrickson, Amy Hunt, Tyson Vogeler, Lonnie Eaton, Amy Chadwick