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Mask and vaccine mandate discussions dominate NFSD School Board meeting

Mar 3 ,2022

By: Krysyan Edler - Intern

A majority of the NFSD community opposes a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for school children, according to the results of a survey shared during the Wednesday, Feb. 23 NFSD School Board meeting that focused on parents’ mask and vaccine mandate concerns.

The NFSD Board of Directors sent the survey data and a letter to Governor Jay Inslee and the State Board of Health, detailing the impact a vaccine mandate would have on NFSD and the community. Superintendent Jim Jacobs read the letter at the meeting.

“According to the input we have received from our community and from our health and administrative professionals in the North Franklin School District, a Covid vaccination mandate would be extremely detrimental to the continued operation of the North Franklin School District,” Jacobs said in the letter.

Respondents were almost unanimously opposed to a COVID vaccine mandate for children ages 5 and up to attend school with 91.5% voting in opposition of the mandate. The majority of respondents would not vaccinate their children (85.3%) and would seek an exemption for their child (65.6%) if the governor imposes a mandate. If there is no exemption process, 74.2% of the 422 respondents claimed they would not vaccinate their students even if that meant leaving the district.

The mask survey garnered 1,218 responses. In describing their position on the mask mandate, 72.7% believe masks in schools should be optional at all times. The beliefs that masks should only be mandatory when social distancing isn’t possible and masks in schools should always be mandatory both received 10.8% of the vote.

A majority of students, parents, and guardians feel more comfortable remaining in face-to-face learning if masks are optional (70.4%), but 17.5% felt more comfortable if masks remained mandatory. Mandatory masks would cause 9.3% to probably move their child to Virtual Learning.

The results were mixed in regards to the impact wearing a mask has on a student’s social and emotional well-being with 35.3% believing there is no negative impact, 24.4% believing in a slight impact, 21.8% believing students have suffered greatly, and 18.5% believing students suffered some impact.

When parents expressed concerns about their children being bullied by NFSD staff because of their vaccination status, Jacobs reassured that a student’s vaccination status is not anyone else’s business.

“Judgment is to be left out in the parking lot somewhere,” Jacobs said.

In addition to conversations about COVID-related concerns, the board discussed graduation rates and safety. Curriculum Director, Pat Nunan reported an increase in graduation rates since 2016. NFSD boasts a 96.7% graduation rate in 2021 compared to the 83.9% rate in 2016. NFSD reported a higher rate than the state’s 82.5% in 2021.

The new radio system the district has been working on is expected to be installed in March. Also during that month, bus drivers will receive professional training through the Stop The Bleed program to learn how to properly address traumatic bleeding.

The board meets again on March 14 at 5:30 pm. both in-person and via Zoom link.

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