Debate Over Continued Mask Mandate Marks Tense Park City School Board Meeting
During a contentious public hearing at the Park City School District’s office on Wednesday, April 20, the Park City Board of Education heard from unmasked parents who want the school district to override the state mask mandate still in place for schools through the end of the school year.
Parents involved with the baseball program also asked the board to install artificial turf on the high school diamond.
The Park City Board of Education has the discretion to allow public comment during work meetings. Board President Erin Grady explained before the hearing that the board would not allow political or disrespectful comments.
Elizabeth Smith, a parent, said the state order allows mask exemptions at the direction of a parent in a testy exchange with the board. She also asked for additional staffing in the counseling and mental wellness area to help children navigate the social and emotional impacts of the past year.
“I feel like honoring those exemptions might be construed as discrimination against our children for medical, psychological, and developmental reasons,” she said. “So I'm asking to immediately accept exceptions. I have a 9-year-old boy who was very happy and energetic and carefree about a year ago, and now he is anxious and depressed.”
Superintendent Jill Gildea, in response, said school districts do not have the authority to change the state school mask mandate.
“I have been traveling a couple of days of meetings around the state and the public health order that outlines the mask mandate through June 15 as outlined by the Governor as well as several different legislative bills that were passed,” Gildea said.
Grady ended the public input session after she and Gildea ruled an escalating verbal exchange to be out of order.
“Okay, I’m going to stop this right now,” Grady said. “This is not a back and forth. This is not a question. So you just came up and read your statement.”
“That wasn’t my statement,” replied the parent. “It was an answer to her [Superintendent Jill Gildea] rebuttal. Her comment.”
Turning to other issues, two parents asked the board to install artificial turf on the Park City High School baseball diamond. They cited multiple concerns about the field’s condition that included vole damage to the outfield and having no place to practice during the high school season.
Grady said the board is focused on master planning implementation but will consider the baseball diamond’s issues carefully.
“We have received over 50 letters from the parents of the baseball team,” she said. “We hear you.”
Park City School District Chief Operations Officer Mike Tanner told the board that turf replacement on the ball field would cost $4 million. He said the district is considering installing bleachers estimated to cost $100,000.
One parent identifying himself as Steve said they don't want bleachers. He thinks replacing turf on the infield and providing ten more batting cages would help the team.
“Practicing indoors, you can’t hit a pop-up,” he said. “We all know all those things. The real problem is when the season is changed. But, we’re not going to change the state.”