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Oshkosh School Board meeting postponed after protesters disrupt it, argument breaks out

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 6:55 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 26, 2021 at 10:41 AM CDT
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OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) - The superintendent of the Oshkosh Area School District says students, staff and visitors will be required to wear face coverings through Oct. 1. This comes one day after protestors stormed a school board meeting on masking, forcing the board to postpone the meeting.

A new meeting date has not been set, but the school board president and superintendent planned to meet Thursday to discuss it.

“I know that community members have differing opinions on masks, but we are committed to using face coverings as one of our key mitigation measures to keep our staff and students safe and learning in-person in our schools and classrooms. We want to provide in-person instruction while protecting our families. I hope the community health data will improve and we can move away from the face covering requirement after the first month in school,” says Dr. Bryan Davis.

Board President Bob Poeschl said he hopes community members will be respectful at the next meeting. “Let’s remember that our children are watching how we interact and learning from our example,” Poeschl said.

On Wednesday, a group of 20-30 protesters entered the room as the meeting began were asked to put on a mask by members of the school board, and they refused to do so. Afterwards, a police officer reiterated they needed to wear a mask.

An argument soon broke out between those in the audience, which included people on both sides of the mask policy.

District officials told protesters if they didn’t wear a mask, they wouldn’t hold a meeting.

Members of the school board walked out of the room soon after, and then gathered in the Superintendent’s office.

Community members in the Oshkosh School District and the surrounding area had planned a protest at 5 p.m. outside of the building where the meeting was being held. The protest was being held in regards of having the choice to have students wear a mask during the upcoming school year.

A news release issued ahead of the protest said the parents were concerned board members planned to discuss mandatory face coverings for children in the district.

The protesters who refused to put on a mask when they entered the room also challenged police when officers asked them to put on a mask, asking them if they would be arrested if they didn’t put one on.

“I have three grand daughters and grand children and I don’t want to see them wearing a mask to school, and I think it’s a freedom of choice and that’s what it should be. It’s our freedoms that we’re losing,” said Joan Gosz, who has three grand children in the school district.

However Richard Plant of Oshkosh countered, “These people are ignorant. We have to protect our kids. There is nothing wrong with having a mask on. Doctors wear masks all day long.”

Poeschl, was asked to comment on the situation and initially declined to do so.

Board members left the superintendent’s office after about 30 minutes, and Poeschel then entered the meeting room, where he announced the meeting had been postponed.

Action 2 News was able to speak with Poeschl before he left, who stated he was “disappointed” on how everyone acted.

“I’m not worried about the disruption I’m worried about the message that it sends to our community that if you’re uncomfortable with something like this you can come and disrupt public works that are taking place,” he said, adding, “It will not change that we are having masking requirements in the Oshkosh school district at this point.”

The masking policy was re-instated this past Monday, with the expectation the board would re-evaluate it in 30 days.

The item was not on the agenda for this meeting.

With the start of school being a week away, some expect the fight over masking, to intensify.

“They just got up and left without even hearing us out. I think it’s just ridiculous, and the thing is, we are not going to stop. They had to leave today, they are going to have to leave many times because we are going to be back,” said Oshkosh parent Kristy Walsh.

The building was cleared around 6:45 p.m. Wednesday.

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