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Parents speak out in support of masking policy

October 13, 2021
WOLFEBORO — The September Governor Wentworth Regional School District board meeting was dominated with a challenge to the district's indoor mask mandate policy. A number of people attempted to flout the policy and take seats for the meeting in the Kingswood Arts Center, but were told that they would have to follow the policy in order to remain seated. A separate room was set up with audio visual support for those who refused to wear a mask but wanted to view and participate in the meeting.

The meeting was delayed for 50 minutes as the unmasked attendees decided their courses of action. Five people who insisted on remaining in the auditorium without masks were issued citations in lieu of an arrest for criminal trespassing, obstructing government operations, and disorderly conduct. Arraignments are forthcoming.

In contrast, the Oct. 4 school board meeting opened on time with those who chose to remain unmasked situated in the nearby music room. Two attendees referred to it as "the shower room" when offering public comment, and another attendee from Middleton, which tuitions its middle and high school students to Kingswood, referenced the policy as draconian, and spoke of coercion, lies and a slave society, ending with, "You know what you are doing is wrong."

But several parents spoke in support of the GWRSD. Holly Williams Aucoin, mother of a son with a seizure disorder whose has had seizures triggered by the common cold, said thank you for the mask mandate, which is in place when the Covid-19 transmission rate is in the substantial/high range (the CDC and NH HHS reference those two different words for the same rate).

She went a step further and described a personal experiment. She said she wore an N95 mask and a cloth mask simultaneouslyfor a full day, while monitoring her oxygen levels with an O2 monitor every thirty minutes. Her oxygen level "didn't drop below 98 all day long" even when she, an asthmatic, ran a mile.

"I will no longer allow the voices of the anti-maskers to be the loudest voices in the room," she declared.

Becka Brownell Smith shared her opinion, stating, "It is not unreasonable to require masks. You are doing the right thing, keeping masks on during a substantial/high rate."

"A large part of the community is supporting you," commented Bobbie Boudman, who called on others "to cease and desist on the right to know requests."

Boudman also responded to Rhoni Harding's observation that upon driving by Carpenter School, she saw adults without masks but children wearing masks outside. Harding referred to it as hypocritical, but Boudman, a substitute teacher, noted that children are not bothered by their masks, often forget they have them on and leave them on even when allowed to take them off outside.

Two online petitions with opposing positions are gathering signatures via Change.org. One, titled "Breathe," started by Ruth Clough says, "The undersigned taxpayers and citizens of the Governor Wentworth School Distict demand that the GWRSD superintendent and school board remove the mask mandate immediately for the 2021/2022 school year for all grades inside and outside of the classrooms."

The other, started by Bobbie Boudman, is titled, "Keep GWRSD following the DEHHS Masking Guidelines" It states, "Since many stakeholders cannot attend the GWRSD School Board meetings, here is a way tolet the School Board know that we support their decision that was made at the August meeting to follow DHHS guidelines for masking."

An additional petition has been circulating in person around town advocating for the School Board to call a Special Meeting at which a vote would be taken on the mandates. The opinion of the school's attorney, Barbara Loughman, is that even if a special meeting were held and the voters approved a warrant article rescinding the mask mandate, the vote would be non-binding and advisory only, because

state law vests the authority to adopt the mask requirement in the school board.

Petitioners were reminded that only the signatures of GWRSD residents would be counted.

As the Oct. 4 meeting moved into non-public session and the audience was leaving, a person in the music room stood close to the camera, filling the projected image over the stage in the auditorium with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' Infowars logo. The line between those who believe masks are a tool of disease protection and those who believe a mask mandate is tyrannical is clearly drawn.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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