{p dir=”ltr”}On Monday night, parents from the Fergus Falls public school district filed into the auditorium of Kennedy Secondary School (KSS) to share their feelings with the school board about the mask mandate for pre-K through sixth-grade students.

{p dir=”ltr”}A large group of parents who opposed the mandate gathered on the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Union Avenue in downtown Fergus Falls prior to the start of the regularly scheduled school board meeting. The group walked together to KSS, many of them carrying signs with various messages in opposition to the mandate.

{p dir=”ltr”}The parents packed the auditorium and were given the opportunity to share their thoughts with the school board during a public comment session after the meeting.

{p dir=”ltr”}Many parents came to the podium to address the school board; some in opposition to the mandate, some in support of the mandate.

{p dir=”ltr”}“Many of us feel like this is so much more than just a mask mandate issue,” said parent Laura Dewey, who also created the Facebook group “Fergus Falls Pre-K — 6 Parents Against Mask Mandate.” She worried that the mask mandate would lead to further mandates such as a vaccine mandate or mandates on curriculum.

{p dir=”ltr”}Other parents worried about the negative mental health effects of masks, and another parent stated that he was tired of living “under the tyranny of the experts.”

{p dir=”ltr”}Other parents voiced their support for the mask mandate and worried that children would have to return to distance learning without it. One parent, a teacher in the district, warned that distance learning would be more disruptive to children’s mental and developmental health than having to wear a mask.

{p dir=”ltr”}Tom Rufer of the Fergus Falls city council voiced his support for the mask mandate and additionally addressed the negative role social media can play when it comes to solving community issues. “We all need to be aware of the outside forces that have a substantial effect on the conversation that we are having at this very moment,” he said, warning of the name-calling, personal attacks, and conflict that can generate on social media. “Instead, try this; find someone you disagree with and sit down for a cup of coffee,” he recommended. “It’s going to take some practice, but try listening more than speaking, and try to put yourself in their shoes.”

{p dir=”ltr”}The school board listened and took notes on everyone’s concerns. The meeting remained positive, productive and respectful.

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