Port Huron school board passes resolution supporting St. Clair County Health Department

·3 min read
Students are released from Port Huron High School Friday, March 13, 2020.
Students are released from Port Huron High School Friday, March 13, 2020.

School board officials for St. Clair County’s largest district passed a resolution in support of the county health department this week — several weeks after the agency issued a countywide K-12 mask order.

The decision to pass the resolution was unanimous at the end of Port Huron Area Schools’ board of education meeting on Monday after a brief reading of the measure but no discussion among officials.

According to its language, the resolution was aimed to “support and express our appreciation to the St. Clair County Health Department for their efforts to keep our learning environment safe and open for in-person learning” amid the onset of the current COVID-19 surge and spread of the omicron variant.

It also cites a “proactive partnership” between the health department and the district, which individually implemented temporary mask rules in schools at the end of November. The health department’s order was rolled out on Dec. 29 and is in effect until Jan. 28.

The resolution passed this week adds, “In the interest of public safety and the care of our children and staff in the Port Huron Area School District, we welcome efforts to continue to mitigate COVID-19.”

According to its reading, it was offered by school board Treasurer Joe Bixler and supported by Secretary Frank Partipilo and Trustee Laurie Oldford.

“I helped to craft it,” Bixler said Tuesday when asked about the measure. “There were several of us that had been talking about it, so we put it on the agenda.”

Bixler has been open about his thoughts regarding the health department on social media — recounting its medical and public health officer, Dr. Annette Mercatante, as being “under attack” in a public Facebook post on Jan. 12 — in response to pushback for the county’s mask mandate in school settings.

The resolution, he said on Tuesday, spoke for itself — a statement to say, “We appreciate the efforts.”

Other school board members have also spoken out.

Trustee Tim McCulloch, in a letter to the editor, responds to what he saw as “more anger and hatred that surrounds the issue” of COVID, adding he supported the resolution Monday “not because I agree with every decision they have made but because I believe they are trying to do what they think is best.”

During a call with media Wednesday, Mercatante thanked school board members.

“We really appreciate the support. Remember we did the mask order because we want to keep kids in school. And that was our primary goal," she said. "So, we appreciate that they see the value of that, and that they're partnering with us with the same goals in mind.”

During the same meeting this week, some parents continued to speak out against the mask rules to board of education members. Superintendent Theo Kerhoulas, in his report, also set out to “squash rumors” he said he’s heard that the school district was getting money for or from the health department for masking students, adding, “That’s not true and not the case.”

Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or jssmith@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.

This article originally appeared on Port Huron Times Herald: Port Huron school board passes resolution supporting St. Clair County Health Dept.

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