Dear Dr. David Peak and The District 12 directors:
I want to express my profound gratitude for the decision you made to implement a temporary mask mandate in our schools. I have two children at Gold Camp Elementary who are too young to get vaccinated. I am greatly relieved that they have a much better chance of remaining in school — in-person, along with being able to continue with sports, playdates, etc., — effectively being able to live a normal life after a painful, protracted terrible period of doing school from home and being socially isolated.
I understand how your decision has been irrationally politicized (I say that given the abundance of scientific, fact-based evidence that proves that masking is very effective in curbing the spread of COVID) and that you were subjected to a frenzy of outraged protesting parents, grandparents and students at the recent Board of Education meeting, as detailed here.
I am sorry for that. I am sure this has been difficult and deeply unsettling for you, for many reasons, starting with the key premise that you’re simply trying to keep kids (and their teachers and families) safe and in school.
So, in light of all of vitriol being thrown at you for making the sane, prudent decision for our entire community, I wanted you to know there are many parents like me that are profoundly grateful to you. I have spoken with many parents who are relieved for this temporary mandate to be in place. Mind you, we are not happy to have our kids in masks. No one actually wants their child in a mask!
However, there is an enormous contingent that understands this is the No. 1, best way to keep kids (especially those who cannot be vaccinated yet) physically healthy as well as in school, in person (along with in sports, socially active, etc). It’s also a very important way to keep at-risk friends and family members (especially those who are immunocompromised) alive. My elderly in-laws are living with us. While they’re vaccinated, they’re at much greater risk of a break-through case of COVID that could be really dangerous — even deadly — for them.
It’s unfortunate that in many communities, including our own, that those of us who are committed to keeping our kids safe and in-school, are not nearly as visible or vocal as those who object to science and public health protocols and instead believe this is a violation of their rights and is politically motivated. I am thankful that there were some active, vocal parents present on Monday who also expressed gratitude to you and provided a grateful counternarrative to the angry protesters in representing how strongly we feel about the board’s decision to enforce a mask mandate.
Many of us laughed and gawked at the Texas dad that stripped down to his swim trunks at a BOE meeting to make the case in favor of mask mandates, noting how much he also objects to being told what to do, how he objects to wearing a coat and tie to work, objects to traffic laws, seat belts and the like that keep people safe, but clearly are all about telling people what to do. I assume even the anti-maskers agree: these norms are not politically motivated. The vast majority of us accept them purely as common sense safety measures for the greater good.
Like the Texas dad and many others, I get that no one wants to be told what to do. I am a “type AAA-Aries” with a certain propensity for control. Believe me, I don’t want to be told what to do and I get how this rankles some people. However, there is a pragmatism here that you have instituted for the common good that is really and truly meant to be temporary.
What I don’t understand is that with so many districts without mask mandates — including up in D-49 and D-11 as well as many others throughout the Southeast and elsewhere — having either already shut down entire schools, why so many people feel their kids are better off without masks than being in school. Some school districts didn’t even bother trying to start in person. Instead, several gave up and started the year online. This is a far greater cost on kids, families and whole communities than school communities being required to wear masks for another few months.
I can’t help but think how incredibly challenging it will be for many families when their kids get COVID and they A) can’t get a babysitter (“Hi, my kid has COVID. Can you please babysit him while I go to my job?” “Oh, no? Really?” No one is going to babysit a kid with COVID) and B) miss even more work (as well as sports, trips, events, etc) because they contract COVID themselves, not to mention the health risk they face especially if they’re not vaccinated. Your mask mandate reduces the possibility families will be put in this position.
This article from the Washington Post as well as the following link from medRxiv to a study about the expected transmissiveness in schools this fall are eye-popping and might help the anti-maskers understand the risks you are trying to mitigate for our school district:
A Calif. elementary school teacher took off her mask for a read-aloud. Within days, half her class was positive for the delta variant.
A CDC-funded simulation projects that without masking or testing, more than 75% of children could be infected within three months. (COVID-19 Projections for K-12 Schools in Fall 2021: Significant Transmission without Interventions | medRxiv)
Finally, I want to underscore to all of the anti-maskers: please remember that this is temporary. And as someone who actively lobbied the BOE to put a mask mandate in place, I did so not to trample on your rights but to keep all of our kids, families and teachers safe, to keep them in school, to keep them playing sports and doing play dates together.
None of us want our children in masks for a moment longer than necessary and dearly hope the vaccines will be authorized for children 11 and younger as soon as possible and/or the immunity in our community increases to the point where the mask mandate can be safely withdrawn.
Andrea Miller is a Colorado Springs School District 12 parent and the CEO and founder of YourTango a purpose-driven publisher focused on love, relationships and emotional wellness.