Some parents pushing for more masking in Hermantown

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In just a few days, the four Engel kids will be heading to Hermantown Elementary. There are two sets of twins!

Justin Engel, their father, told us they will all be wearing masks in the classroom, even though it’s not required, just recommended in that space.

"Honestly, I was kind of shocked. It’s something they did all last year, and the kids seem pretty use to it," he said. He’s a registered nurse working in Duluth.

Another parent, Angela, said she wants to protect her son, who has a bone marrow disorder. "Every day I worry about what this new virus will do to his remaining bone marrow," she told us.

She wishes the district would just require them everywhere, that way he isn’t confused. "If he’s in a class where the majority aren’t wearing masks, I think he will feel pressured not to wear a mask."

Superintendent Wayne Whitwam explained that masks will be required in all common areas in the elementary school, like the hallways.

And if the case numbers go up, they’ll be required in the classrooms, too. "The plan is always changing," he said. "We are recommending masks for everyone in the classrooms, but leaving it up to the parents choice."

Earlier this week, Essentia Health sent a letter to the district, urging universal masking. Whitwam said he respects the letter, but he didn’t think it came from the organization.

"It came from six different individual doctors, who did send it to the school board. They have read it. I called Essentia Health, because I wanted to know if they are asking for our help as a community partner. Right now, if they called and said, we’re in trouble, and they need help today, that’s different," he said.

When we confirmed with Essentia that the letter was from the organization, Whitwam said he would share this information with the school board on the 13th.

Until then, families get ready for the first day, with somewhat heavy hearts. "It’s sad, now we just cross our fingers and hope it goes well," Angela said.

"We see this train coming down the tracks, and the school board and superintendent are choosing not to jump out of the way. And that’s disappointing," Engel said.

Whitwam did add that 92% of the staff are vaccinated. Universal masking is recommended in the middle and high schools as well.

Here’s the link to Essentia’s recommendation about universal masking: