Ashland Independent School Board & Superintendent:

True school leaders do not decline to the lowest common denominator of their community’s often ill-informed sentiment. They create data-driven policy that uplifts, elucidates and — most importantly — protects the children they are bound to serve.

According to CDC statistics for Boyd County as of Aug. 6, only 39% of individuals ages 12-18 are vaccinated. Every single child under 12 is unprotected by vaccination. And only 33% of our total population is vaccinated, even though free vaccines have been widely available for months.

Between the Aug. 2-6 press releases from Boyd County Emergency Operations Center, new reported COVID cases rose from 28 to 108, 13 of which were school-aged individuals.

Once the school year begins with no masking requirement, that number grows exponentially, even within a single day’s exposure. As the CDC urges, “masks work best when everyone wears one.” If we can institute clearly worded school policy regarding such lesser considerations as tank top straps and wallet chains, we can institute a universal masking policy during a pandemic as it makes its fourth surge.

As of today, 616,000-plus Americans have died from COVID-19. More than 1.5 million American children lost a caregiver to COVID. You play a crucial part in hastening the conclusion of this pandemic for our community.

We demand that you protect our children’s ability to safely return to school. We demand that you honor in clear, district-wide policy all the direction of our most trusted professional medical organizations — the American Academy of Pediatrics, especially — which explicitly states that masking for all is imperative. We demand you take proactive measures to preempt yet another shutdown of the activities that allow our children to blossom.

From parents, educators and health care professionals: Craig Berry, Kevin Burns, Valarie Decker, Katie Kneisley, Laura Salyer, Jessica Taylor, Myra Thompson and Rachel Wilson.

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