Mask mandates were not on the agenda, but that did not stop Flagler County residents and non-residents from speaking out.
For the second month in a row, public comments at the Flagler County School Board meeting were combative, bordering on hostile.
Unlike the Aug. 17 meeting, the room was not cleared at the Sept. 21 meeting, but a man was escorted out during the first public comment session, and another was escorted out during Vice Chair Colleen Conklin’s closing comments.
And similar to the previous month’s meeting, the board members walked off the dais and halted the meeting while the crowd calmed down. This followed a deputy escorting a man out after Conklin began responding to his remarks, which is against the board’s rules. But before Conklin could finish her sentence, the man, raising his voice, said, “Good men are wanting to do some bad things right now.”
As the man was ordered to leave there were shouts of “Cowards,” and “I recommend we get rid of every board member here.”
When the board returned, Conklin apologized for responding.
The meeting got contentious during the first public comment session when the majority of the speakers who opposed mask mandates and student quarantines as infringements on their freedoms were applauded and those in favor of wearing masks as a public safety precaution were at times derided.
Chair Trevor Tucker repeatedly asked the crowd to refrain from clapping or interrupting speakers.
A mask mandate was not on the agenda and three board members declared in their closing comments that Conklin’s motion for a mandate with a parental opt-out was defeated on Aug. 17 and the issue would not be brought up again.
“There’s no going back on that at this point people,” board member Cheryl Massaro said. “Unless you see it on the agenda, and you will not, it’s not going to happen. The (COVID) numbers are going down right now. Let’s hope they stay this way.”
Massaro agreed the school district has a problem with quarantining but said every school district in the nation has the same problem.
Janet McDonald agreed that quarantining is a problem.
“Overreach during this pandemic has been extreme,” she said. “We’re using tests that haven’t been verified to find COVID. Our mainstream media is not giving the full picture so sometimes we’re walking around with crutches.”
Conklin again advocated for universal masks, saying, “It is critical for us to mitigate against the spread of the delta variant by utilizing whatever tools are in the tool box.”
“There’s no going back on (a mask mandate) at this point people. Unless you see it on the agenda, and you will not, it’s not going to happen."
CHERYL MASSARO, School Board member
Before Conklin was finished with her closing remarks a woman shouted, “She’s a disgrace,” and walked out of the room.
Jill Woolbright blamed communications on the unruly crowd that filled the chambers for the second straight board meeting.
“If we just four weeks ago put out the narrative (that the board would not be voting on a mask mandate) I don’t think the room would have been filled with people from this county and other counties,” she said.
Woolbright also responded to the question of going back to a remote learning option.
“We have 77 positions open right now,” she said. “We can’t keep employees. The teachers’ union told us they cannot do another year of teaching kids live and teaching kids remote.”