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Rapid City School Board Votes Against Temporary Mask Mandate


The Rapid City Area School Board voted Tuesday against a two-week mask mandate. It also decided against forming a committee with doctors who would make further COVID-19 safety recommendations. 

The measures, which failed on a 5-2 vote, were proposed in response to rising cases within the district and the Black Hills. 

Tensions between people in favor and against the temporary mandate ran high before and during the school board meeting. 

Dozens chanted and sometimes yelled at each other during the demonstration before the vote.

70 people signed up for public comment. And security removed hecklers during the meeting, which was packed despite being held in a larger room than normal. 

Joanna Smith came to the protest with her husband and baby. She says parents, not the school board, should control masking. 

“So if it makes parents feel safe they should be able to make their kid wear a mask to school and if it makes parents feel like it’s hurting their child’s learning or in some way negatively affecting their child I think a parent should have that choice to send their child to school without a mask,” she said.

Si Issler is a district parent and nurse at Monument Health. She says the hospital is short-staffed while dealing with three floors of COVID patients. That means long wait times for other patients. 

“It’s hard on everyone across the board,” Issler said. “If people would mask up for a while to help slow the spread, this would help the health care workers help everyone.”

The school board heard from doctors who specialize in emergency medicine, intensive care, the immune system and pediatrics. They say a mask mandate would help the situation at the hospital. One doctor, who specializes in physical rehab, spoke against masks for kids.