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Tahoe Truckee school board suspends in-person meetings

The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Board meeting was held virtually Wednesday night, following a decision to temporarily suspend in-person sessions due to safety concerns.

“School boards have become a place, not just here in Tahoe-Truckee, but a place where some very strong opinions are expressed, and we’ve had a situation develop where it felt very unsafe for our staff, and even for the board members to be there on board meeting nights,” said Board President Kim Szczurek.

“People are refusing to wear their masks. If our folks get COVID, they can’t come to work and can’t serve our kids. We need them to be able to serve our kids … to add that level of fear of getting COVID, fear, somewhat, of physical safety is not acceptable.”



The Jan. 16 school board meeting was ended early during public comment after an individual refused to put his mask on. Board member Cris Hennessey also called 911 after being followed and harassed by another person in the parking lot.

“Those are the kinds of things that are starting to happen and it’s concerning,” said Hennessey during Wednesday’s board meeting. “I felt like I had to call Truckee PD”



Police presence has been requested at several previous meetings as well.

Szczurek said a group of roughly a dozen people has continuously showed up at board meetings in order to voice opinions regarding district and state policies on COVID-19, specifically on mask mandates.

“The folks who have made the meetings more challenging aren’t interested in the business of the board,” said Szczurek. “It’s really focused on that one thing, and that’s fine … but we also have to be able to do our business in a safe way.”

Szczurek said the board has been dealing with the issue since a Nov. 9 meeting, when 78 people showed up, prompting school officials to set up a livestream in the gymnasium where people could wait until it’s their turn for public comment.

“The crowd has gotten aggressive. Not everyone is behaving that way, but there are some that aren’t behaving in a safe and respectful way,” said Kelli Twomey, coordinator of district communications for Tahoe Truckee Unified School District. “There is a group of very assertive or aggressive people.”

Szczurek said most in the group of a dozen or so members don’t have children that attend school in the district.

“From what we have been able to tell, many of the folks who are doing this do not have kids in the district, but just have a particular interest in the vaccine/masking issue,” she said.

PRIORITIES

Ultimately, Szczurek and Twomey said the priority remains on students and keeping schools open.

“Everybody’s tired of it, everybody’s worn out, and so I think sometimes we’re in the line of fire,” said Twomey. “We do get very unkind emails on a very regular basis that say … ‘We’re destroying our children. We’re destroying the youth.’ And pretty harsh statements like that … Everything we’re doing is in the best interest of the kids. Students are the focus of every decision.”

Public comment during Wednesday’s meeting lasted nearly an hour and was centered mostly on the district’s decision to hold meetings virtually, mask mandates, and vaccine efficacy.

The next board meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 16. It can be streamed by visiting ttusd.org/boardmeetings. To view the agenda, which has info on how to submit public comments, visit ttusdpub.ic-board.com.

Public comment can be made during the meeting via Google Meet at meet.google.com/pfv-ypoq-cxs. Public comment can also be sent via email at boardroom@ttusd.org. Emailed public comments will be shared with the board members prior to the board meeting as a matter of record.

Justin Scacco is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at jscacco@sierrasun.com


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