SMITHVILLE — The Smithville School Board voted 4-3 Wednesday, Sept. 15, to continue its universal masking policy for personnel, students and visitors in district buildings.

The board met in the performing arts center of Smithville High School in anticipation of large crowds of those in favor of masks and those opposed.

Four public commenters from the crowd spoke during the 20-minute public comment portion of the meeting, with all saying they are against masks. The audience included many students, and after persistent comments from the audience to let students speak, the board voted unanimously with a show of hands to allow the students to address the board after the public comment period ended.

Students who addressed the board were: sisters Neveah Palmer, a sixth-grader at Maple Elementary, and Elizabeth Palmer, a high school senior; and high school senior John Baldwin. All three spoke of wanting a "normal" school year and are opposed to masks in school.

During his monthly COVID-19 update, Superintendent Todd Schuetz said he wants the board to vote on mask-wearing at each meeting going forward.

“I have to do what is best for our community,” he said. “There are almost 3,000 people in our schools. Currently, we have 13 cases and 45 in quarantine. My recommendation is to stay the course for masking and address the issue again in October.”

During a vote on whether to keep the masking policy in place, board members Len Matthies, Scott Haggerty and Ian Saxton voted to remove the policy, while Fales, Vice President Sarah Lamer, Jeff Bloemker and Susan Whitacre voted to keep it in place.

More on this story will be published in the Thursday, Sept. 23, edition of the Courier-Tribune.

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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