Osakis Superintendent Randy Bergquist reiterated his stance on not requiring masks this coming school year at the Osakis School Board's regular meeting Monday, Aug. 9.

Bergquist said the district also will not require vaccinations, and will not be doing distance learning.

"In 25 years of education as a teacher, a coach, a principal and a superintendent, I've never told parents how to raise their kids. … I'm too old to start now," he said.

Randy Bergquist
Randy Bergquist

Bergquist said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending students and staff in grades K-12 continue to wear a mask regardless of whether they've been vaccinated.

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"I personally think, right or wrong, it should be up to the districts (to decide) what's best for their community and their school," he said. "One-size model does not work. ...

"Last year was a tough year for everybody," he said. "I want some normalcy to come back. Mental health components for kids (and) staff are important to me."

No matter the stance of the students and teachers on the issues, Bergquist said there will be no "mask-shaming."

" From kid to kid, for wearing or not wearing masks, from staff member to staff member, community member to staff member, staff member to students, there will be no mask-shaming," he said. "You have my word. … I will look into it. If there is a complaint, I will look into it."

Bergquist said the only way the decision will be reversed is if the government mandates the wearing of masks in classes.

"That's the only reason it will change, because I will not put any financial instability at risk for Osakis Public School because we are not following mandates," he said. "I will also not put the Osakis community at risk because of getting in the media, and quite honestly, I won't lose my license over the fact."

Critical race theory

Bergquist also said the district will not be teaching critical race theory.

"I just want everybody to know in Osakis School District that as a former educator in a classroom, I never told kids what to believe, I never told them they had to believe something," he said. "I always tried to use critical thinking skills, to teach kids to think critically about things."

According to britannica.com, critical race theory is a "loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of color."

Bergquist said it is not part of a formal curriculum, and that the district will continue to "be proponents of equitable education and diversity."

Gymnasium roof

The school board also approved a plan to repair the roof of the gymnasium.

This plan follows one that will fix the dehumidification system of the gym.

Bergquist said the roof needs to be fixed first, however.

"What I would hate to do is have the dehumidification system go up there and then fall like the doggone condominium in Florida," he said. "That would be absolutely horrible."

The school board accepted a bid from A.S.H. Roofing & Custom Cladding in the amount of $88,329.

"We were able to convey to them that we would like to have them start (Aug. 10)," Bergquist said. "So they should have the roof finished before school starts."