WEISER — Masks are back off at Weiser schools, after a temporary rule that had been put in place Sept. 13 was rescinded Wednesday by the Weiser School District Board of Trustees. Ahead of the meeting, about 60 people attended a peaceful rally outside the district office, with most of them also attending the meeting.
The mandate was put in place in September, shortly after school began and a sharp rise was seen in COVID-19 cases.
The protest was organized by the Weiser chapter of the Power2Parent Union, a parental rights group that helps parents advocate for their children’s education. The union gathered with about 60 people, peacefully protesting against the districts mask mandate and other issues.
One speaker who fired up crowd, causing people to cheer at her remarks, was Power2Parent Union State Director Kayla Dunn.
Dunn said that it was time for parents to “Enough is enough,” in regards to parent’s not being able to speak at school boards, or being called “terrorists” for speaking up on issues they care about.
“The school board doesn’t own your children. These are your children,” she said. “What you say goes, nothing more, nothing less.”
Dunn also said school boards have “too much power” and that it was imperative people show up for school board elections, saying those are often neglected.
A school board election for Weiser takes place on Nov. 2. Candidate Jim Brush is running against the incumbent Board of Trustees Vice-Chairwoman Margaret Chipman for a four-year term.
Dunn said that the board is “incentivizing putting masks on your children,” alleging that there is big money behind it, but offered no explanation about that.
She told the crowd that school districts are “brainwashing your babies.”
Dunn said programs that school districts provide, such as Social Emotional Learning, critical race theory and Second Step are “teaching your kids how to hate America.” She also said districts are rebranding those programs so parents don’t recognize what is being taught. Furthermore, she took issue with schools teaching sex education, “which you [the parents] should be teaching your children about.”
Dunn suggests that that rather than allowing the board to choose the curriculum, each district should have a curricular adoption committee that consists of parents who do so.
She also said the Idaho Education Association sent out an email asking paid volunteers to canvas for pro-teachers union candidates for the school board.
The newspaper contacted the association about Dunn’s comments and received the following statement.
“The IEA is committed to advancing public education in Idaho and supporting students and professional educators,” wrote President Layne McInelly. “To that end, we will work unabashedly to help elect pro-public education candidates at all levels of government. Our students and communities deserve elected officials that believe in the opportunities that strong public schools can provide.”
At the start of the meeting, Board of Trustees Chairman Mark Pritchard said that there was “misinformation” going around about that nights meeting being a closed meeting.
Pritchard also said that the board of trustees received 25 letters.
Pritchard said that one letter that was sent to them by a woman who they didn’t identify, said she was confident that the e-mail and letters wouldn’t even be read.
Pritchard said that wasn’t true, and that the board read every letter it gets.
He then told the packed room the names of the people who sent in letters for the agenda item regarding the mask mandate.
Weiser School District Superintendent Wade Wilson provided the update on the district’s COVID-19 Response Plan saying that there had been a reversal of positive cases, since the mask mandate had been in place.
He said on the week of Sept. 11, 36 cases were reported in the district.
Wilson said now there only about two cases a week according to the date on the district’s website https://bit.ly/3vb1jQS.
Following Wilson’s report, the board’s Vice-Chairwoman Margaret Chipman motioned that the mask mandate be rescinded in the school district. However, it was noted that the board would come back every month to reassess whether the mandate needs to be reissued.
In other action, Park School Principal Angie Halvorson was named as the new director of Federal Programs and Special Education for the district. As such, the board will need to replace the principal, which the district is still considering. The federal programs’ position was previously held by William Morriss.