Moorhead schools scrap mask mandate and quarantines

There’s been something of a breakthrough when it comes to COVID-19 in Moorhead Public Schools. Not breakthrough cases, but a breakthrough in the school district’s COVID policy. On a 5-2 vote, Forum News reports the Moorhead school board approved phasing out the mask mandate in place for the district’s 7,000 students starting in January.

The district’s top health advisor said the rationale behind lifting their mask mandate is that all students are eligible for the vaccine and more rapid testing is available in school.

They can get the results in 15 to 22 minutes, depending on the test.

The first Spuds who will be allowed to take their masks off are preschoolers when they return after Christmas break.

From there, every two weeks a new group will be allowed to shed the mask…

The mask mandate adopted before the start of the new school year got off to a rocky start, provoking protests on the part of strongly opposed parents at school board meetings. Not surprisingly, some school board members questioned the call to make wearing masks optional, rather than mandatory, moving forward.

“Would it be prudent for us to wait to make a decision on masks until we have seen — had more time to know? said Moorhead Public School board member Kara Gloe.

“When it comes to the masks or the vaccinations, if you want to get it you can get it, if you don’t want to wear it, you don’t have to wear it. (If) you want to wear a mask, you can wear a mask. It’s your choice. It’s your personal choice,” said board member Scott Steffes.

The key to the surprising decision to reverse course was the recommendation by the school district’s health supervisor, Erika Yoney.

“I think we need to trust in the research she’s done, trust in the fact that we’ve offered vaccines to as many people as we possibly can,” said chairwoman Cassidy Bjorklund.

“You are sitting in my chair, what’s your vote?” school board member Matt Valan asked Yoney.

“I would not present a plan that would not safely protect our kids,” she replied.

The revised plan goes even further, also ending the practice of quarantining students who come in contact with those who test positive for the virus. The priority will be maintaining in-school learning so students do not fall behind, while keeping a close eye on infection rates.

“Now that the vaccine is available to students who are age five and above, Moorhead Area Public Schools desires to maximize in-person instructional time for all students, while keeping staff and students safe. These changes will both reduce the amount of classroom time missed due to quarantine and continue to mitigate spread within the school setting. The support of our school board, staff, parents and students is greatly appreciated as plans are revised to provide a safe educational environment where students can thrive,” said Superintendent Dr. Brandon Lunak.