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Joyce Endee

Mask protests dominate school board meeting


September 23, 2021
WOLFEBORO — The Governor Wentworth Regional School District meeting on Monday, Sept. 13, in the Kingswood Arts Center got off to a late start. Around 45 people settled into seats up front without wearing masks, counter to district policy voted on and established by the board at the August public meeting.

Chairman Jack Widmer told those gathered that the meeting would start when audience members donned masks, and informed them that a teleconference room was set up for anyone who insisted on going maskless. Wolfeboro Police Chief Dean Rondeau and an assisting officer were on hand to issue summons for anyone who insisted on remaining in the auditorium without a mask.

Some chose to argue, prompting Rondeau to respond variously to protestations that rights were being denied, "You can state your case in front of the judge...there are accommodations for participating in the meeting, you can speak... yes, the schoolboard has the authority."

And so went the process of preparing to start the meeting as individuals made their decisions. Holly Williams Aucoin, parent of a kindergartener, spoke to express respect for others' opinions, but stated that she had an issue to share with the board and that she would like to be able to get on with the meeting.

At 7:50 p.m., about six summons having been handed out for criminal trespass and obstructing government operations, and participants in the teleconference room visible on a big projection screen and able to be heard, the meeting, set for 7 p.m., was able to begin.

Aucoin asked the board to consider a grace period when the risk rate moves back down to low or moderate and masks become optional, per the mask policy. Her reasoning was that it would allow young children to adjust. In her case, she stated that as the parent of a child with a medical condition, she would need time to plan, for she might have to pull her son out of school as a precaution.

Others who spoke during the initial period of public comment and the period offered at the end of the meeting were generally focused on removing the mask requirement during periods of substantial or high risk. Words such as denial of freedom, tyranny, disgust were used to express opposition. Luke Freudenberg urged "temperance" and expressed the view, "I think it will be a lifetime pandemic. It's going to continue to spread and mutate...being masked up is causing a generation of children to be living in fear..."

Parent Jessica Williams disagreed with the Center for Disease Control and the NH Health and Human Services figures and challenged, "Do you ever use your own brain as to what to follow?"

"I don't understand why something as simple as a mask [ is reason for such] hyperbolic behavior," said Bobbi Boudman, parent of a Kingswood senior.

She then called upon people to "start treating each other with respect."

The protest over the mask mandate overshadowed other business that evening, which included mention of six Covid-19 cases reported since the start of school.

Martin Lord & Osman
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