Pandemic protocols weren’t among the agenda items at Monday’s Milton School Board meeting, but the issue still arose during the public comment portion.
Dozens of people spoke about masking in the district’s schools, both in favor and against, during the Aug. 23 board meeting before the board ultimately voted to implement a universal masking policy for people inside school buildings.
Tracy Hannah, the only person who signed up to speak during the Monday meeting’s public comment segment, wanted the board to revisit the decision at every board meeting going forward and not just at the second meeting of each month as planned.
“As you’re well aware, this is a very important topic to parents, students and the community,” she said. Hannah added she has asked the district under what circumstances it might end the universal masking rule, such as if there is a particular vaccination rate or test positivity rate that officials are hoping to attain, but she said she had not received any response.
School Board President Michael Hoffman, who said public comments would be limited to topics on Monday’s meeting agenda, interrupted Hannah and said she was veering toward a topic that wasn’t listed.
Masking and pandemic-related policies have led to heated debates and confrontations not just in Milton but across the country. Superintendent Rich Dahman said in an interview before Monday’s board meeting that “a large majority” of people who participated in the Aug. 23 meeting were respectful and conducted themselves properly but that there was a small number who “used that forum to try to interrupt the work of the board.”
Dahman said there were some people who chose to walk toward the area where board members were seated in an apparent attempt to intimidate them. One person was asked to leave the Aug. 23 meeting before the vote on masking and did so, he said.
“We certainly would hope that it wouldn’t become a case in the future where we would even have to ask people to leave,” Dahman said. “The expectation is that you have an opportunity to share your thoughts and to voice your opinion, but we need to respect a decision that the group makes.”
During Monday’s meeting, Dahman gave the board a preliminary number of enrolled 4-year-old kindergarten to 12th-grade students. He said 3,495 were enrolled in Milton schools “as of last week.” That would represent a slight increase from 2020’s enrollment. Enrollment figures play into the state’s formula for school funding.