Kent City School District’s mask requirement called “child abuse” at board of education meeting

George Joseph, Kent City School District superintendent, speaks at Tuesday night’s board of education meeting.

By Audra McClain

Monica Shanley-Bellamy wants the Kent City School District to reevaluate its mask requirements for students.

Shanley-Bellamy, the mother of a high school student in the Kent City School District, attended the Board of Education meeting last night, November 16th, 2021, for a second time this school year to voice her concerns about the district’s requirement of masks. 

Shanley-Bellamy said according to data, the mask requirements may be affecting students’ ability to learn. She pleaded with the board members to look at how masks affect the students. “There’s got to be some end to this,” she said. “This is like torture. It is borderline child abuse now.”

The current mask policy requires that all students wear masks. Students with a doctor’s letter disclosing a medical reason for being able to wear a mask are exempt from the requirement. “There are two things we can do. One is to vaccinate, the other is to wear masks to protect our kids,” George Joseph, Kent’s superintendent, said. “Our goal is five days a week, in-person school. That is our goal.”

According to Joseph, that goal was able to be maintained this school year through the requirement of masks. Joseph said Kent’s Covid case numbers are “so much better” than schools that did not require masks or partially required masks. 

The district is looking at reevaluating the mask requirement after winter break. All students in the district will have had the opportunity to get vaccinated by then.

On November 8th the district held a vaccine clinic for students. Around 1,478 students aged 5-11 were eligible to get the vaccine, out of that, 467 received the vaccine through Kent’s clinic. 82 Field Local students, 30 Rootstown Local students, and 11 Kent students aged 12 and up also received the vaccine. 

This Friday, November 19th, Kent will be providing the Moderna booster shot to staff members. As of last night, there were 268 staff members signed up to receive the booster. “The more we get vaccinated, the closer we are to moving away from mandated masks,” Superintendent Joseph said. 

Shanley-Bellamy believes that now that vaccines are available for children of all ages, masks should be optional. “I think now is a good time to maybe consider making this an optional thing for parents, rather than this being a forced thing,” she said.

Other highlights from Tuesday night’s meeting

  • On December 1st the school district will be making their final debt-service payments for their 1997 bond issue which built Stanton Middle School and renovated Roosevelt High School and their 1998 bond issue which renovated Davey into Davey Elementary. Now the tax dollars will be repurposed for 25 million dollars of improvements across the district. 
  • The review of the New OSBA Policies has been pushed back to December.
  • Sadie Anderson, an ELA teacher at Stanton Middle School, the resignation will be effective on November 23rd, 2021. Roosevelt’s head girls bowling coach, Al Ehlert’s resignation was effective on October 26, 2021. Pat Harper, a current 1st-grade teacher at Davey Elementary, is retiring after nearly 22 years of teaching in the district. Her retirement will be effective in July 2022. 
  • The district only purchased two new school buses this year, opposed to their typical three for cost-saving. 
  • Last year a new synthetic turf field was put in place at Roosevelt. In 12 years the turf will need to be replaced. $40,000 will be transferred annually to pay for the replacement.
  • No new school levy has been on the ballot since May 2013. 
  • Touchscreen Chromebooks will be purchased for student use. 
  • Student-workers will get a new hourly wage of $7.40 an hour in 2022.
  • Resolution for Guaranteed Maximum Price and were approved for district-wide improvements.

The entire board meeting can be listened to via the district’s youtube channel.