Scenes have played out across the country as school boards and parents have locked horns over students wearing masks when they return to school.
Typically, those meetings have seen parents berating school board members over a mask requirement. The script seemed to flip in Wrenshall on Aug. 31.
More than a dozen parents and teachers spoke in favor of requiring masks during the open forum portion of the special meeting, but board member Misty Bergman interrupted, talked over and questioned those who spoke in favor of requiring masks.
In the hours after the meeting, a wave of parents began withdrawing their children from the school district, leading Superintendent Kim Belcastro to request an emergency school board meeting Wednesday, Sept. 1.
Belcastro said several people had made allegations of misconduct against a school board member following the meeting. However, she did not reveal the individual accused or the nature of the allegations.
“After last night, parents and guardians of 16 students have informed me that their children will be leaving the district due to concerns related to last night’s board meeting,” Belcastro said at the special board meeting. “Given the number of students who abruptly stated an intent to leave, I felt an emergency meeting was necessary.”
The 16 students leaving the district represent more than 4% of the total student population in grades K-12 at Wrenshall.
The board voted unanimously to authorize John Edison, the district’s legal counsel, to conduct an investigation into the allegations leveled against the school board.
At the Aug. 31 meeting, board approved a measure requiring masks if 5% of the total students and staff at Wrenshall — about 20 people — test positive for COVID-19 in a two-week period.
No board member or Wrenshall administrator addressed Bergman’s behavior during the Aug. 31 meeting. In fact, Bergman was unanimously appointed as the board's vice chair at the end of the meeting. The position was vacant after Jack Eudy moved into the board chair position, replacing Michelle Blanchard who resigned her seat on the board to take the Wrenshall School principal job.
Edison is scheduled to update the board on the investigation at the board’s committee of the whole meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 8, in the Wrenshall School Library.