CHISHOLM — A vote to mandate mask usage in the Chisholm schools failed Monday on a tie-vote by the school board.
Instead, the school district will continue to follow COVID protocol approved before the start of this school year.
At its regular meeting on Monday the board voted on a resolution requiring masks to be worn by all students, staff and guests, after a motion by director Cindy Rice, and a second by director Corradi Simon
The vote was 3-3, with board chair Bob Rahja, director Danielle Randa-Sauter, and director Clarice Sever voting no, and directors Shelly Lappi, Rice and Simon, voting yes.
Students will still be required to wear masks on school buses according to federal law.
During public participation before the vote on Monday, the board heard input from the public, with varying views offered.
Some who spoke out against a mask mandate pointed to a survey conducted by the district, whereby 215 of 362 respondents indicated they opposed a mask mandate for students and staff, and 147 indicated they favored a mask mandate.
Rahja, before the vote, addressed the audience — which filled the small meeting room — attending the meeting on Monday, requesting they listen to the board speak without interruption.
“We don’t belong making this decision, the government is not helping, they are not helping at all,” Rahja said. “You can say what you want about the government, but when you need the government, you need the government.”
In making his decision, Rahja said he consulted with students, and his daughter, who happens to be a school teacher.
“Everybody has the choice to make their own decision,” Rahja said, thanking everyone who spoke on Monday.
This is the first time since school started that the board has put facing coverings to a vote. The board did discuss COVID during a working session held after its regular board meeting earlier this month.
The audience in the boardroom for Monday’s meeting was limited to 10 “guests,”who were seated apart with the exception of family members. A large screen was set up in the school media center, where about a half dozen people, mainly students. watched the meeting.
Since the school year started earlier this month the district had a mask optional policy in place with the exception of school buses, where masks are mandatory under federal law.
Protocol in place since the beginning of the school year strongly recommends mask wearing, along with other mitigation practices including hand washing and social distancing.
Since Sept. 16 the Vaughan-Steffensrud Elementary, a building that houses preschool through third grade, has been on a reset at the recommendation of local health officials as a way to limit transmission of COVID-19.
Students from the Vaughan-Steffensrud are receiving education via packets delivered to their homes during the reset, according to school officials.
In-person classes at the Vaughan-Steffensrud are set to resume on Oct. 2.