Masks will be required to start the 2021-22 school year in Bemidji

The Bemidji School Board voted 5-1 for a universal masking requirement to start this school year.

All students, staff and visitors will be required to wear masks while inside school buildings.

The crowded meeting proceeded with several reminders to the galley for quiet. One galley member was asked to leave and she did comply.

Many parents and community members speaking out against a mask requirement cited concerns about individual rights being violated with a mask requirement, including business owner and pastor Dwayne Weir.

Members of the school board that voted in favor of the policy included Carol L. Johnson, Sarah Young, Dr. Gabriel Warren, and Jeff Haack. The sole nay vote was from Jeff Lind.

Lind offered a motion to require masks for K-5 students and all staff. The motion failed to gain a second so no vote was held.

Quarantine guidelines from the state hinge largely on all students wearing masks. The guidelines state that if both a COVID-infected student and an exposed student were wearing masks, only the infected student would need to quarantine.

Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Wilcox was on hand to explain Sanford’s predictions on the latest wave of COVID-19, largely fueled by the delta variant.

Superintendent Tim Lutz said after the meeting that while the district may lose students with this decision, they may also gain students.

An amendment to the resolution included a 10-day maximum quarantine time for COVID-infected students.

The board will likely review the policy as the COVID transmission rate in the area decreases.

View the special meeting of the Bemidji Area School Board here.





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