For those playing the “how many Arlington School Board members will go mask-free at the first board meeting after requirements were lifted?” home game, the winners were those who had put their money on four out of five.
Board members David Priddy, Cristina Diaz-Torres, Reid Goldstein and chairman Barbara Kanninen were maskless at the March 10 meeting, as was Superintendent Francisco Durán. School Board member Mary Kadera kept her mask affixed.
The county school system on March 1 lifted mandatory masking requirements in its facilities, following both a change to state law (which primarily ended mask requirements for students) and to guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Mask-wearing is a personal decision based on an individual’s circumstances,” Kanninen said at the start of the meeting. “We ask everyone to support our students, staff and each other.”
The CDC currently ranks Arlington as a low-transmission community. Should that designation move up to medium on the CDC scale, masks would be recommended, but not required, for students, staff and the public in Arlington school facilities.
Should transmission levels return to what the CDC considers high, masking would be required for staff and the public in school facilities; the parents of students could opt out of any masking requirement for their children, owing to legislation passed by the General Assembly.
At the March 10 meeting, Durán said the switch from masked-up to mask-optional had gone relatively well.
“There have been a few incidents” – he did not specify the details – “but for the most part it has been a very smooth transition overall,” he said.
That’s not quite the way parent David Rosenblatt sees it.
Rosenblatt, who chairs the school system’s Arlington Special Education Advisory Committee, told School Board members that the March 1 switch came with no plan to address the needs of students at high risk for COVID.
“There was no accommodation process announced,” said Rosenblatt, suggesting that the message being sent to those students and their families boiled down to: “You are on your own.”
“Is this who we are? Is this what we stand for?” Rosenblatt said in asking School Board members to pose hard questions to staff and demand consistency in implementation across schools.