GUIZERIX: Teachers matter in mask discussion

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Last week, the Vicksburg Warren School District Board of Trustees discussed what some would call an unpopular decision: extending the mask requirement.

I’m not going to attempt to justify why masks should or should not be mandated. Instead, I want to commend board Vice President Sally Bullard for voicing her concern for teachers who are immunocompromised. As the child of a public school teacher and as someone with many loved ones who are veteran educators, this perspective gave me hope.

When COVID-19 first came on the scene, it seemed that much of the focus was solely on students — how school shut-downs impacted them, why it was unfair that they had to wear masks. Very little discussion on the national stage focused on teachers and how the pandemic threw them for a loop, as well.

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For example, my mother was a teacher who went home to an immunocompromised spouse. Other teachers I know have their own health issues that make them more vulnerable to severe infection, such as diabetes and hypertension. These educators were forced to choose between their livelihoods and their lives, in some cases. They assumed a great personal risk. Yet, no one seemed to care about them.

Bullard’s suggestion that masks be optional district-wide, but that teachers who are immunocompromised or who have immunocompromised loved ones can require masks in their individual classrooms, is thinking in the right vein.

Considering the transmission rate in Warren County and within VWSD, and the downward trend that was reported at the school board meeting, it makes sense that enough information is available for parents to make their own decisions to send children to school in masks or not. But allowing teachers to require masks when needed provides an additional barrier of protection, where such protection is deemed necessary.

The next meeting of the VWSD Board of Trustees is on Nov. 18. The board will once again take up the issue of masks, and will hopefully reach a decision that’s in the best interest of students and staff members at our schools. Hearing the discussion from last week affirmed, at least to me, that the school board is doing all it can to understand the issue as it continues to evolve and as the holiday season approaches.