It is back to school time in the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic. The town of Cook where I live is not free from COVID-19. From what I hear there are people reporting to the clinic with COVID. I have at least one friend that has a confirmed case of COVID-19 despite being vaccinated and serious about masking and social distancing. It is unlikely that he is an isolated case.

So I am completely confused about how the ISD 2142 Board of Education can be operating K-12 schools filled with vulnerable unvaccinated elementary children completely without an apparent, let alone effective, COVID-19 prevention protocol. A short visit to the school on Tuesday showed no signs posted at the entrance recommending masking or even mentioning COVID-19. The staff at the desk were unmasked. Looking through the glass doors at students moving in the hallways showed about 5-10% of students and staff wearing masks, and no attempt at social distancing.

This apparent lack of concern for student and staff safety flies in the face of recommendations from the CDC, MN Dept. of Health, St Louis County Health Dept and several local health systems strongly suggesting an immediate multi-layer approach at preventing the spread of COVID in schools. This includes vaccination of all possible people, universal masking, practicing social distancing, contact tracing and testing. In the Sunday Mesabi Tribune there was an open letter from Amy Westbrook of the St. Louis County Health Dept and Dr. Kasey Kapella of Fairview Range medical center in Hibbing urging local school districts to follow these protocols.

I am not sure what kind of English they are teaching in ISD 2142, but it seems to me when all the experts are recommending and urging school districts to do something about Covid that pretty much means they want you to do it. People with Doctorate Degrees in one field should respect the learned opinion of people with Doctorate Degrees in other fields. I don’t know about you, but I want a real trained doctor performing my surgery, not my buddy from the hunting shack, even if he is good at gutting a deer. Training and expertise count for something.

If your plan for protecting children is tepidly suggesting (wink, wink) that they should wear masks to school but it’s not required produces 5-10% success, maybe you need a new plan. When I went to school 5-10% correct was a F minus minus.

The District did not even use education to inform the staff about the danger to health that COVID presents. I have been told that COVID was not seriously addressed in the in-service training the staff received the week before school opened. Seems like a big oversight to me.

In my 40 years of mining experience, I attended 40 years of MSHA safety training. I learned that you have to take safety seriously to prevent accidents. You can’t let your guard down at work and home or you will become a safety statistic. If you don’t have procedures in place to prevent accidents then you better be prepared to deal with the results of accidents. Is ISD 2142 prepared for a COVID outbreak in the schools? The hospitals are already filled up. Do they have a plan for a mass outbreak of Covid sending full classrooms of children home for treatment or quarantine? Wouldn’t a rigorous plan to prevent the spread of Covid be better and cheaper and provide more educational opportunities?

The ISD 2142 website lists several Core Values on its Mission Statement page. First is “Community – ISD 2142 believes that community schools are effective schools that provide a safe, positive, and supportive environment in which all students have the right to be educated.”

I was on the school board committee in the 1990’s that drafted the first Mission Statement and Core Values as part of our Strategic Plan. I do not see how a total lack of COVID-19 protection plan aligns with this Core Value. I do not see how the Superintendent’s response to concerns about school safety, “Go look elsewhere if you don’t like it.” aligns with “every student deserves an education”. After of decades of support for ISD 710 and ISD 2142 by both my wife and I, I think our grandchildren deserve more respect than a callous dismissal.

And parents, why are you sending your children to school without masks? Would you send your children into a burning building? These schools are currently super spreader sites. If every student wore a mask in school, it would be so much safer for your child. The Superintendent would be right about how effective her recommendations are and I would be wrong.

Brave school boards in Duluth, Ely and other districts around the state and country have mandated masks. Bravo to them for being proactive and doing the right thing to protect children.

If you agree with any of my points, please share your opinion with your School Board and Administration as soon as possible. They need to hear from you. You deserve to be heard.

Bill Conger

ISD 2142 resident

Former School Board Director

Cook

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