Keep Covid face masks voluntary, dozens of citizens tell Fayette County Board of Education

20
3060
Citizens pack Board of Education meeting, dozens speak. Photo/BoE website.
Citizens pack Board of Education meeting, dozens speak. Photo/BoE website.

Majority also demand getting rid of now-banned Chinese facial recognition cameras; several speakers urged ban on Critical Race Theory instruction in classrooms; Covid operations protocols — 

With school starting Aug. 2, a standing-room-only crowd at the Fayette County Board of Education meeting July 26 had three issues on their minds: mandatory Covid masks for students, facial recognition cameras and software already in schools, and a controversial set of ideas called Critical Race Theory.

Out of a crowd of upwards of 60 people, more than three dozen speakers took up to three minutes each to spell out their objections to those three issues, while about a half dozen parents and a panel of local pediatricians urged mandatory masking for all students, teachers and staff in the 24 Fayette schools.

Pediatrician Dr. Sara Goza — a Fayette native — stood with three other pediatricians to urge that wearing masks be made mandatory for all students and school staff. She said that masks were part of a “multi-pronged, layered approach to keep kids safe.” She said mandatory masking was needed to avoid “another year of remote learning.”

“We are encouraging the use of masks, but not requiring them. That’s current policy,” Chairman Scott Hollowell told the crowd. “The Board of Education has no plans to mandate [Covid] vaccinations.”

Board member Leonard Presberg said he worried that the voluntary mask policy “was sacrificing some kids and schools, especially every single one of our elementary school students” to unnecessary exposure to the highly contagious delta variant of Covid-19. Children under age 12 currently are not allowed to receive any of the three Covid vaccines.

“We should follow medical advice to protect our kids,” Presberg said.

Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Patterson responded that school officials would be watching virus infection patterns “location by location” and planned to intervene “surgically” if there were outbreaks in specific schools.

“We hope to ease restrictions, not impose them,” Patterson said.

The system is following federal guidelines and requiring masks on all who ride school buses. But kids and teachers starting the new school year in August are currently not required to mask on school property or in classrooms.

Communist-made cameras draw protests

The second hot topic for the meeting was a holdover from last year: use of facial recognition and thermal imaging cameras and software manufactured by a Communist Chinese vendor that is now blacklisted by the U.S. government.

Hikvision brochure about thermal imaging systems.
Hikvision brochure about thermal imaging systems.

As reported in The Citizen Aug. 30, 2020, “The school board on Aug. 10 approved the purchase of up to 75 Hikvision cameras, at an installed price of $7,000, for a maximum of $525,000. The purchase will be made using ESPLOST (education special purpose local option sales tax) safety and security funds.”

Some residents objected then, but the selling point to the board was the built-in monitoring of body temperature of students and staff to check for symptoms of Covid-19.

If anything, the objections have increased. Speaker after speaker questioned how the school system could justify paying a half-million dollars for a system now banned by federal agencies. Questions also arose about why the person who recommended the system to the system was the one who profited from the sale. Others wondered why the system had no answers on what happened to the data from the cameras. One speaker called for a forensic audit of the camera decision. Several speakers echoed the cry, “Take the cameras out.”

Majority don’t like Critical Race Theory

Teaching Critical Race Theory in Fayette schools at any age got an overwhelming negative review by speaker after speaker. Use of CRT in K-12 public school classrooms has been banned by lawmakers in Tennessee and Idaho, and officials in a dozen states, including Georgia, have begun efforts to bar its use in school curricula. CRT began as a package of ideas introduced in law schools.

“In plain terms, critical race theory holds that racism is part of a broader pattern in America: It is woven into laws, and it shows up in who gets a job interview, the sort of home loans people are offered, how they are treated by police, and other facets of daily life large and small,” according to an explanation of the term by the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism school and research organization in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“A central complaint of critical race theory is that, because it focuses on race, the approach is itself racist. Critics say it presents solely a negative picture of the United States and is designed to make students feel badly about their country,” Poynter said.

Board member Roy Rabold, a former principal in two local high schools, injected a note of realism in the talk about CRT. “CRT may not be taught in the classrooms, but kids will talk about CRT. They hear about it from other sources. They will ask teachers, “What’s this about?’ and the teachers will answer their questions. There needs to be some context.”

In-class enrollment, Booth opening

The board got a report on virtual school numbers expected this coming school term: 153 elementary students will be in remote learning, 165 middle school students, and 317 high school students.

And as of last Monday, July 26, there were 19,970 students enrolled for brick-and-mortar classes, the board was told.

One more statistic about in-person summer school classes: Not a single case of Covid infection of a student or teacher was reported during summer school.

For students headed to Booth Middle School, construction on “old” Booth on Peachtree Parkway South is ongoing but expected to be completed in time for classes next week, Superintendent Patterson reported. The “new” Booth construction off Carriage Lane and Stagecoach Road “is on schedule” for opening this winter, Patterson said.

The board consists of Chairman Scott Hollowell, Leonard Presberg, Brian Anderson, Roy Rabold and Randy Hough. The superintendent is Dr. Jonathan S. Patterson.

Fayette County Board of Education at July 26 meeting. (L-R) At dais, Randy Hough, Brian Anderson, Superintendent Dr. Jonathan S. Patterson, Chairman Scott Hollowell, Roy Rabold and Leonard Presberg. Photo from BoE website.
Fayette County Board of Education at July 26 meeting. (L-R) At dais, Randy Hough, Brian Anderson, Superintendent Dr. Jonathan S. Patterson, Chairman Scott Hollowell, Roy Rabold and Leonard Presberg. Photo from BoE website.

Fayette Public Schools Operations 2021-2022 Covid Protocols

Health and Hygiene

• Face coverings highly recommended for unvaccinated persons

• Maintain seating charts for contact tracing for positive cases

• Quarantines based on Georgia Department of Public Health guidance

• Hygiene breaks encouraged throughout the day

• Quarterly electrostatic sanitation for entire school system

Cafeteria Procedures

• Full capacity or limited capacity based on school facilities

• Maintain process for contact tracing of positive cases

• Visitors scheduled at the discretion of the administrator

Recess/Travel/Field Trips

• Play grounds open

• Field trips subject to approval protocols

Facilities and Routines

• Enhanced cleaning procedures will continue

• Quarterly electrostatic sanitation for entire school system

• Locker/book bag usage determined by schools

Visitors

• Classroom volunteers must be scheduled

• Location of visitors will be tracked for contact tracing purposes

• Health screening questions will remain in place

Instruction

• Sharing of instructional materials allowed for all classes

• Media centers open

Bus Transportation

• Enhanced cleaning will continue

• Face coverings required due to federal mandate

Quarantined Students & Staff

• Quarantined students will participate in concurrent learning

• Georgia Department of Public Health guidelines will be followed for students and staff

Public Events

• No seating capacity limitations

• Live streaming of events recommended

• Face coverings highly recommended for unvaccinated persons

Subject to change based on community & local data • updated 7/23/21

20 COMMENTS

  1. Per the CDC’s own data only 2.3% of children 0-17 that have contracted Covid have been hospitalized. Less than 1% have been admitted to ICU and less than 0.1 % have died as a result. Oh I know “but 1 death is too many”. (insert eye roll here…25 mil abortions worldwide this year says otherwise).
    Ya’ll people need slow your roll on the mask BS. I see someone posted a link from the NIH about mask efficacy. Really? You’re going to believe anything from an organization ran by the man who APPROVED funding for gain of function testing that almost certainly is at the root of this pandemic.
    Geez…

    • I again encourage people to go to Google Scholar and search “procedure mask efficacy” with the result filtered to articles published prior to February 2020. Every research article was clear – procedure masks offered little to no protection against inhaling aerosolized particulate matter. When properly worn, they only filtered approximately 50% of aerosolized particulate matter. Almost nobody is wearing them properly to begin with. I’ve even witnessed medical staff with improperly worn masks.

      The handful of studies produced this year that differ from prior studies in their conclusions largely represent agenda-driven science. Often when a large organized group (government agency, lobbying group, pharmaceutical company, oil company, etc) commissions a study, the conclusions are implicit in the tender. The researchers understand that future funds are contingent on the outcome of the study reflecting the public positions of the sponsor. And researchers have to eat too. Thus you get what MIT Professor Richard Lindzen has referred to as the “iron rice bowl / iron triangle”. Public funding for science as it is currently conducted results in junk science designed to support public policy. We need serious reform in government funding of scientific research so that we’re funding serious science that solves problems, and that is not merely a makework program for academics.

    • “Ya’ll people need to slow your roll on the mask BS.” I’m genuinely curious what your fear is here, and I’m having difficulty following the logic of comparing abortion to wearing a piece of fabric on your face. If you don’t want to get vaccinated, I get it. I disagree based on the science behind it, but I get your fear. It’s scary, there’s a risk involved, it’s experimental, etc. Let’s ignore for a moment the 1.16 billion people worldwide who have been fully vaccinated, and also the fact that for most of the developed world we no longer have to fear Polio, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Smallpox, etc. precisely because of vaccines. What I fail to comprehend is why masks scare you all so so much. So, you claim they do not work. Scientific consensus and multiple well-researched studies assert that they do. Even if you claim to have some special knowledge which somehow invalidates the advice of doctors and virologists, who have spent decades studying viruses, causes, cures, and procedures, why not just wear a damned mask? I promise that a mask will not harm you unless you try to ingest it. They (masks) have been proven to be 99.999% safe. Unless, of course, we’re referring to their effect on your apparent lack of self-awareness and concern for those around you. That might just be bruised a bit by a tiny piece of cloth covering your face.

  2. Good article. Well written and informative. Thank you, Cal and the Citizen.

    The crowd was likely a little larger than described. Engaged citizens not only filled the chairs and then the walls. We also had a substantial overflow into the hallway.

    Let’s talk Hikvision Systems in Fayette Schools. I’ve recently been told by a few well-meaning citizens two amazing things. First, Hikvision is not a danger to our children because it is “Not connected to the internet.”

    Followed on Tuesday with statement two: Fayette children’s photos are not in danger of being leaked because Not Only is it not connected to the internet. We will not be turning the “cameras on” at the beginning of school year.” Reminder: Citizens had asked that every vestige be expunged from schools at the meeting. A master teacher reminded us that it can potentially break state law if any repository of Georgia children’s photos can even potentially be hacked and leave the school.

    “Its Not Connected to The Internet”

    If anyone says that to you, ask these clarifying questions.
    1 Is it or any networked items with it, connected to an “intranet?”
    2 Does any item on the intranet have a wireless modem in it or available to it?
    3 Are any items (software, devices, internet of things) able to access the intranet via Bluetooth (wireless) type connection?

    If the answer is Yes or Maybe. That means that it is hack-able.

    Plus

    If any device on that intranet is corrupted, every item on there is now potentially hack-able.
    When any organization compounds the problem with per-compromised (blacklisted) software or firmware or hardware (Hikvision). All elements need to be banished. Yesterday.

    Not temporarily, “turned off for now”. Every element should be uninstalled, wiped, disconnected from the intranet and then wiped again and deleted again. Block at the HTA level at the IP addresses used in the admin panels of Hikvision. And that is just the minimum suggested to better protect our children.

    • I sure do wish we would spend as much time and attention on the fact that our children are more at risk of being injured by guns at school than by a piece of software/hardware that comes from China. Where do you think most of the components in mobile phones that a large percentage of children carry originate? Do you think mobile phones pose less of a risk than facial recognition software? If so, can you please explain your thinking here?

  3. Owl Nation,
    We are not throwing a hissy fit, we are debating a point. And as far as your neighbors life being at risk, for all intensive purposes that is not true if your neighbor is vaccinated. Lets do the math. 160 million people vaccinated. 5773 people who have been vaccinated has been admitted to the hospital, and of those 5773 (this is debatable) between 300 to 800 have died, but lets round up and say 1000 people have died from Covid after being vaccinated. That is a 0.000036% chance of being vaccinated and being admitted to the hospital, and a 0.0000062% of dying of Covid while being fully vaccinated.

    For fun, lets see what you have a better chance of dying of and how we can mitigate those risks, starting with heart disease, stroke, being run over by a train, struck by lightning, or killed by a golf ball. Covid Delta Variant is real, people get it, but vaccinated people…it just isn’t a big deal.

  4. In the setting of a highly contagious variant that affects kids,low vaccination rates and rising covid 19 cases in the county,it seems unwise to start school with kids unmasked. You can’t ask for kids to be in school full time AND unmasked with a pandemic still raging. The Delta variant is known to infect kids and sending kids to school unmasked is a recipe for widespread covid,contact tracing and quarantine,which may close schools temporarily again if too many are out due to illness or exposure. Why not be prudent with the science? Masks work. Influenza levels were at record lows last season due to masks.
    As far as CRT, I cannot fathom not teaching our kids history as it is. Whitewashing it to take out the bad stuff isn’t history anymore. I wasn’t taught about the Tulsa massacre and The Trail of Tears in school and only learned about this and many other events a few years ago. Why not learn from the mistakes of our ancestors and understand how we grew as a country. My question is CRT being taught as a subject in itself aside from usual US history,or is race already being discussed intermixed in with usual US history? My daughter has taken AP US history and I asked her what she has learned about the civil rights movement, Native Americans and other “hot button” issues. She wasn’t taught to “hate America”. She was taught the events of these eras as they happened. She discussed this in a very mundane way.

    • Critical race theory is not about teaching kids history “as it is”. It’s about teaching every subject from the perspective that race plays an intrinsic role in how people interact in society. In other words, it is itself inherently racist. It is derived from theories of Historical Materialism formalized by Karl Marx.

      The reason your daughter wasn’t taught to hate America is because CRT-based curriculum isn’t in the classroom. She was taught a formalist interpretation of history that relies on scientific principles to examine events with respect to a contextual frame of reference.

      Frankly the only reason why there is even a debate about Critical Race Theory is that some Americans have become so intellectually lazy and blisteringly ignorant that any foolish idea – like CRT – can be sold to them with the right branding.

      • So, am I to understand that you are familiar with CRT because you have actually studied it? Or do you derive your opinions on it from The Citizen and Fox News/OAN/Newsmax? Be honest. My money is on you never having read one single source of information advocating for it or explaining the concept from a apologetic source. Maybe I’m wrong, and I can accept that. However, your ridiculous rhetoric about CRT implies to me with clarity that your only perspective on it comes from talking heads, fearmongering, and demagogues, who’s job is not to inform, but rather to provide a targeted audience for conservative advertisers or win political points.

  5. Disgusting. They are going to get us all shut back down again by being unsafe. Elementary school kids dont have the option for getting the vaccine, so masks and distancing should be mandatory. Lets follow science and valid medical advisors, not a bunch of ignorant cry babies.

    • You cannot eliminate risk, only attempt to mitigate it.

      What science? There is zero evidence that wearing a mask prevents the spread of viruses (read the warning on the box). Note that the same CDC said a N95 mask will not protect against smoke which is larger that the virus. And to wear a N95 mask properly, it must be custom fitted to your face, and changed out every 20 minutes or if touched by your hands. The surgical masks MAY protect you from large drops of water if someone sneezes directly in your face, but does nothing against airborne germs.

      Additionally death rates are lower than they were in May and the Delta variant is even less deadly that the original Covid 19 – which is only as deadly as the flu and less so to the young and healthy. Let’s stop children from a depleted oxygen sully.

      I know that my kids will not be forced to wear a mask.

        • Science is still trying to figure this out. They don’t have all the answers on this gain-of-function virus that Fauci himself helped fund, and Fauci has been wrong as much as he’s been right. If some people want to wear masks – go right ahead and do it. No one is stopping you and if they’re so incredibly effective then what do you have to worry about? And while you’re at it, double-mask like Fauci recommended. Then you can be happy and you can go on living your life without this fear that seems to be overtaking you.

          • Cut the ignorance Phil and Wing…. The science is pretty damn clear regarding the efficacy of masks and it’s ability to mitigate the spread of virus, especially an in indoor environment.

            ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7253999/
            nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0843-2

            When asked to do the absolute smallest thing, like wearing a mask for the benefit and safety of their fellow man, some prefer to throw a hissy fit instead of actually helping their community. Your freedom isn’t at risk but your neighbors life may be.

            Grow up.

          • I love when people screech about “the science”, then go on to demonstrate that far from being scientifically literate, they’re barely literate in any dimension.

            The Nature article does not say that masks are effective. In the 2nd paragraph of the Discussion portion, they state “Our findings indicate that surgical masks can efficaciously reduce the emission of influenza virus particles into the environment in respiratory droplets, but not in aerosols”. In the first paragraph they state “Our results indicate that aerosol transmission is a potential mode of transmission for coronaviruses as well as influenza viruses and rhinoviruses.” The article discusses a narrow circumstance in which surgical masks could prevent transmission from asymptomatic individuals.

            The NIH article is a meta analysis. No serious person takes meta-analyses seriously. It’s the scientific equivalent of reading an ad and deciding that diet coke is healthy.

            Before people politicized masks, the broad consensus among researchers is that procedure masks did little to protect healthy people, and only provided partial protection against spreading disease. As the name suggests, they were developed to prevent medical practitioners from breathing germs into open wounds during surgical procedures. That is why medical professionals are wearing NIOSH rated masks if not full on respirators.

            Also, where Liberty is concerned… you don’t get to ask even for the smallest thing.

          • Actually meta-analytic studies, conducted by able researchers, are very appropriate and scientifically significant. They allow researchers to synthesize multiple studies of the same phenomenon by finding common factors in these studies and statistically making them comparable. They give a much broader picture of findings than a single study. I assure you that serious people both conduct and read meta-analytic studies routinely.

    • The CDC has been all over the place on masks. It sure seems like they don’t really know, and now they’re saying vaccinated people need to be wearing masks. What about people who already recovered from covid? There’s no reason for any kids who already have natural antibodies to wear a mask on a bus or in a classroom.

      • The only concern with kids is while they have almost zero risk from the disease itself, they can spread it to others. Many children will have at-risk individuals in their family who cannot themselves take the vaccine due to underlying conditions.

        The answer is to allow those children an exemption from in-person attendance.