Rochester Public School Board meeting goes into recess amid masking disputes

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(ABC 6 News) – The board was set to discuss the district’s new Safe and Open Schools Plan. However, before they could get to that they were forced to take a recess.

Some people attending refused to wear a mask, even though masks are required for everyone in Rochester school buildings.

After a 30 minute break, upset people refusing to wear a mask waited outside the meeting room for their chance to speak out against the district’s COVID policies in a public forum.

One speaker alleged that the school board was enforcing masks for the sole purpose of getting funding from the government. He demanded they resign.

"We require the resignation of everyone on this board that is participating in this fraud," the speaker said.

Those without masks eventually left, or put one on, so the board could continue with the meeting. Interim Superintendent Kent Pekel gave an update on his Safe and Open Schools Plan. He said their vaccination clinics have been useful and that they haven’t had to quarantine any classrooms as a whole – only specific students. He also brought up some challenges.

"A big one is that the symptoms of COVID are very similar to symptoms of other illnesses in many symptomatic cases. And so understanding how to react to that is something we need to continue to provide schools with guidance on," Pekel said.

Since August 30, there have been 52 confirmed COVID cases. There were 27 pre-kindergarten through elementary school cases, 21 secondary school cases and 4 staff cases. The school board discussed how to keep these meetings calm – especially during the public forum portion.

At this time they haven’t come up with a solution or made any changes to the public forum policy. Those refusing to wear a mask said they stand by their decision.

Watch the Rochester School Board meeting live here.