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Mask mandate discussion becomes ‘disruptive’ during D91 board meeting

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IDAHO FALLS – A board meeting at Idaho Falls School District 91 Wednesday night apparently got a little heated.

In messages sent to EastIdahoNews.com late Wednesday night, several community members say there was a shouting match between Superintendent George Boland and Board of Trustees Chairwoman Lara Hill and that police later showed up.

District 91 spokeswoman Margaret Wimborne says this isn’t completely true. She says there was no heated exchange between Boland and Hill, but there were several people who expressed their disdain for the district’s mask requirement.

“There was some patron input that wanted the Board to remove the mask mandate,” Wimborne says. “We had a couple patrons that were very passionate about it and wanted the Board to address it. It wasn’t on the agenda and Idaho’s Open Meeting Law prevents us from making decisions about things that aren’t on the agenda.”

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Many regional school districts have dropped mask mandates in recent months or made them optional. Several patrons wanted the district to follow suit.

The Post Register reports a board member explained the issue had been a talking point at last week’s meeting, which is why it wasn’t on this week’s agenda. The patrons then started yelling, saying board members were ignoring the concerns of parents.

After a minute or two, Wimborne says the exchange got a little tense and was preventing the meeting from moving forward. The board called a 5-minute recess to allow those in attendance to settle down.

During this time, someone made a call to police about what was happening. Two officers arrived and remained in the lobby as a precautionary measure.

“We took a break and then came back and worked through the agenda,” says Wimborne. “They (the individuals who previously disrupted the meeting) remained present for the entire meeting, but there were no further disruptions.”

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The mask mandate and other COVID-19 protocols have been an ongoing conversation within the district over the last several months. In February, the board voted to keep the mask requirement as schools transitioned back to five days a week of in-person learning.

It’s unclear how much longer the mask mandate will remain in effect, but Hill told the newspaper that the issue could be up for discussion at the next school board work session, just over a week before the end of the school year.

“The public’s always invited to our meetings. It’s just a matter of following the protocols and not being disruptive,” Wimborne says.

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