At last night’s monthly board meeting of the Valparaiso Community Schools (VCS), a diverse group of stakeholders including parents, students, academics, and local medical professionals demonstrated their support of the implementation of mask mandates and social distancing in order to combat the threat and spread of Covid-19.
More than seventy-five concerned community members stood in the heat and humidity due to a previously unannounced capacity limit, waiting hours for the opportunity to be heard by the VCS Board. Included in that group was a reporter for the Post Tribune newspaper who was denied entry for the open hours of the meeting. Forty-five people signed up to speak during what became a two hour public comment section. Those comments landed on a firm majority in favor of mask requirements in our community schools, echoing the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Federal Government, Governor Eric Holcomb, Indiana Department of Health, the Porter County Health Department, and countless local medical professionals who sent emails, signed joint letters, and made public statements to the importance of mask mandates and social distancing.
Despite the surging cases throughout the United States this summer due to the emergence of the Delta Variant of the disease, the VCS Board has elected only for optional masking for students. The VCS Covid-19 dashboard indicates sixty-two positive cases of Covid-19 between August 11 - 26, with another 348 total direct contacts. Forty of the new positives came within the last week. With their current policy, the Board has decided these are acceptable infection totals and any time missed by students or faculty due to necessary quarantines are tolerable.
By leaving the decision to mask up to parents, the VCS Board has vacated the leadership responsibilities of their appointed positions. What level of infection, sickness, and spread of Covid-19 will it take before the VCS is moved to act on the recommendations of public health experts? How many missed days and school shutdowns are required before the VCS Board reenages their responsibilities to Valparaiso’s students, parents, and education employees?
Valpariaso deserves responsible, professional, and engaged leadership in this time of global pandemic. Unfortunately last night, Superintendent McCall, School Board President Karl Cender, and the VCS Board chose to shrink from the challenge of their offices.
-Doug Burbank, chair of the Valparaiso Democratic Committee