More than 100 people showed up at Spain Park High School on Monday evening for a Hoover School Board working session designed to seek feedback on the school system’s proposed reopening plan in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some parents were adamantly in favor of the plan, which would bring students back to school on August 10 under much more normal conditions, while others warned that removing mask, contact tracing and Close quarantine could lead to another spike in the community spread and put more lives at risk.
Valerie Suggs, parent of two students at Shades Mountain Elementary School, said masking and social distancing are currently the only means of protection for children under 12, who are not yet eligible to receive a vaccine COVID-19.
The vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 is unlikely to be available until the end of September, Suggs said.
“It would be folly to forgo these protective measures,” Suggs said. “It would be a terrible shame if one of our children in Hoover fell seriously ill in the months to come when we are so close to having a greater degree of protection available to them.”
Suggs said the majority of parents in Hoover want their children to be in school and have access to face-to-face learning with their teachers. They want the freedom to focus on their work and other responsibilities and want periodic school closings and virtual learning days to cease or at least be minimized.
She said most people are prepared to follow recommendations from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alabama Department of Public Health for unvaccinated children to wear masks in school and stay at least 3 feet apart if this increases the likelihood that the children will be able to attend school in person.
“Our children have proven to us last year that they can be active participants in keeping themselves, their peers, their families and their communities safe,” Suggs said.
She’s not a fearful person, but she understands that she doesn’t have all the knowledge to make the best decisions, she said. She looks to her pastor for spiritual advice, her lawyer for legal advice, a financial planner for financial advice, and doctors and scientists for medical advice, she said.
“The politics of this decision are very complex, and I’m very sympathetic to it, but the science is very simple,” Suggs said. “I urge board members to follow the science and continue to help us keep our children and our community safe. “
Sheree Cobia, the mother of students at Brock’s Gap Intermediate School and Bumpus Middle School, said science doesn’t actually support the effectiveness of masks. COVID-19 particles are five times smaller than the pores of most masks, Cobia said.
Cobia also spoke out against the idea of requiring children to be vaccinated so that they could come to school without a mask. She cited statistics of 9,048 deaths and a myriad of health issues cited as side effects of COVID-19 vaccines.
Parents should always have a choice when it comes to their health and that of their children, she said. She doesn’t want children to be discriminated against for not taking the vaccine, she said.
If vaccinations become a requirement for not wearing masks, she will have to remove her children from Hoover schools, she said.
Cobia noted that the virtual school remains an option for people who are really scared or worried about getting sick.
Shilpa Gaggar, a pharmacist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said the statistics cited for adverse reactions to vaccines are not based on medical science, but come from people reporting vaccine-related problems themselves.
“I can say I hit my toe and it was caused by the vaccine, and it goes into the database,” Gaggar said.
In addition, Gaggar said there is a lot of data that confirms the effectiveness of the masks. Yes, they are uncomfortable, but they work and are safe, she said.
Alabama has low vaccination rates and there is a new variant of the COVID-19 virus that is closing summer schools and summer camps, Gaggar said.
“You could create a situation where we could possibly have an outbreak in a school, and because we don’t do any contact tracing, it could be pretty common before we know it had happened,” she said. declared.
Cara Turner, another parent, said it comes down to a question of rational risk assessment. In the United States, the risk of an unvaccinated child dying from COVID-19 is two in 100 million, Turner said. Children are more likely to die from choking on a hot dog, riding a school bus, or catching the flu or pneumonia, she said.
Children are more exposed to the negative effects of close quarantine and staggered school hours than COVID-19 infections, Turner said.
Even at the height of the pandemic, some school districts have been successful in demonstrating that schools can stay open safely through in-person learning, and that was before the vaccine was available, she said. .
“Overall, the risk to children is too low to ethically justify the remaining restrictions,” Turner said. “It is now quite clear that restricting our children’s access to consistent in-person learning is not only foolish, but immoral. “
New Hoover Schools Superintendent Dee Fowler said the current plan to reopen schools in the city of Hoover is still very fluid. He has only been in office since July 1 and the plan has already been changed twice, he said.
“We want to scale back this plan to protect our teachers, our students and provide the best possible education in the city of Hoover,” Fowler said.
After Monday night’s meeting, school board president Amy Tosney said she did not expect the board to vote on the reopening plan. Instead, the superintendent and his staff will listen to the comments provided on Monday evening and in other ways and make any changes deemed necessary, she said.
Fowler said he couldn’t say whether or not there would be further changes to the reopening plan. He wants to give the school board time to digest the feedback it has received so far and provide the advice it wants to provide, he said.