Richland schools make no changes after the 3-hour meeting

The Richland School District again canceled classes on Thursday after the council made no changes to its new mask policy.

The Richland School Board met with its attorney for three hours in an emergency session on Wednesday and then announced a break without taking any action.

At 11:00 a closed meeting was announced behind closed doors. It was said on the agenda that the council would meet with its lawyer on the COVID mask mandate and the Open Public Assemblies Act.

On Tuesday, the council voted 3-2 to make masks optional in schools. Shortly afterwards, the head of schools in Richland announced that all schools would be closed on Wednesday.

Separate voting Tuesday raised questions about whether the public council gave proper legal notice of what they intend to do.

Board President Jill Oldson said the decision also raises other legal issues because it puts school administrators in a potential conflict with Washington’s Department of Labor and Industry.

It could also affect the district’s contract with the teachers ’union, the Richland Education Association.

As Richland battled the mask demand, state superintendent Chris Rackdale announced Thursday that he would join Gov. Jay Insley at a nationwide press conference to discuss the office’s duty to comply with applicable laws and requirements.

The Kettle Falls School District in Stevens County is also violating a government order.

Insley is also expected to talk about the requirement for a mask indoors at a news conference.

Demonstration

When school board members discussed the decision on masks, about 300 students and parents noted the board’s decision at a rally at John Dam Plaza in Richland.

“We were so excited to be in tears,” 31-year-old Fran Warner told the Herald. “Within five minutes they said the school was canceled and we were instantly heartbroken.”

Warner saw that parents and children were angry at the closure of the school, and wanted to make sure their voices were heard and that children learned about their right to express their views in the democratic process.

“If your masks work, why should they? If your vaccines work, why should I? What I do with my children and my body is none of your business, ”she said.

She believes that the new members of the school board were elected for a reason, and their words should be respected.

20-year-old Kirston Puliam from Richland lost at the graduation ceremony and prom because COVID happened in her last year.

She said the masks impaired her breathing and she needed frequent breaks so as not to lose consciousness.

“It worsened my mental health,” she said. “It lowered the marks of my cousins.”

However, many other Richland parents have turned to Facebook to call the decision irresponsible.

Others said they were considering petitions to recall three school board members who had voted not to meet the mask requirements and were planning their own actions.

This story was originally published February 16, 2022 at 6:28 p.m.

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Cameron Probert covers the latest news and education for the Tri-City Herald, where he tries to answer readers ’questions about why police and firefighters are in your area. He studied communications at the University of Washington.

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