School board passes mask requirement as Auburn Washburn parents resist bringing COVID-19 precautions back

Local News

TOPEKA (KSNT) – Masks will be required in the Auburn Washburn school district after a special Sunday board meeting.

In a six to zero vote, the USD 437 school board passed an indoor mask requirement unanimously for all faculty and students in Auburn Washburn facilities. Masks won’t be required outside.

USD 437 invited parents to the meeting to speak to the board about COVID-19 mitigation policies for the upcoming school year. Over 50 parents showed up to the meeting, with many mainly concerned about masks.

“We are all part of the Auburn Washburn 437 family,” said USD 437 Board President Michael White. “The only thing that has divided us is COVID-19 and at this point, masks. We want to hear from all of you who have thoughts on masks and our mitigation strategy.”

Parents rose to the occasion, with several taking the podium to speak against mask requirements.

“We are creating and perpetuating an environment of fear in our next generation,” said one parent. “Long after the masks are gone, we will be mitigating the damage caused by the fear instilled in our children in forcing them to deal with the trauma of ‘what if,’ when we know for a fact that the likelihood of them falling ill and dying to COVID is very low.”

Many parents voiced concerns about the potential health and psychological effects being forced to wear masks would have on children, and some parents pointing out the statistical improbability of their child dying of masks.

“Obesity is far more of a health risk to our kids, but we are not mandating vegetables for our kids while they are in school,” another parent said.

Other parents were concerned about the quality of education, and are worried that not being able to see teachers’ faces and mouths can potentially cause learning setbacks.

“I already this week had to have one pull their mask down so I could even understand them,” another parent said. “Experiencing the first week of school with the option to wear a mask, I think your numbers speak for themselves that around 70% of your patrons and staff do not want to be required to wear a mask.”

The vast majority of the statements given by parents were those who favored choice, and not forcing students to wear masks while in the classroom. According to the Auburn-Washburn School Districts’ approach to the 2021-2022 school year, as of Aug. 6, students will not be required to wear masks in the classroom, but the district strongly encourages the use of masks.

Masks and other COVID-19 related protocols are subject to change as the school year advances. For more information about the district’s policies, click here.

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