Eastern Carver County Schools' decision to require masks for all students, regardless of vaccination status, for the next few weeks led to a heated school board meeting Monday night, including a physical scuffle between attendees.
The district, which includes the communities of Chaska, Chanhassen, Victoria and Carver, announced the update to the Safe Learning Plan on Monday due to rising COVID-19 cases over the past several weeks.
The new masking policy requires those in Pre-K through sixth-grade to wear a mask through at least Oct. 31, while students in seventh-grade through 12th-grade will be required to wear a mask at least through Oct. 15.
Hours after the masking policy was updated, people packed the school board meeting room, with more than 15 people signing up to speak during the 45-minute open forum.
The majority spoke against masks in schools, which led to some heated moments that included some pushing and shoving that began after an unmasked man rolled his chair over to a masked man who'd just spoken in support of the district's decision. The unmasked man can be heard accusing the man of lying to the board.
It prompted School Board Chair Dr. Jeffrey Ross to remind people to be respectful.
The same two men, who were seated behind the podium and on camera, got into a more heated scuffle moments after the open forum ended. The issue was apparently over a picture the masked man allegedly took of the unmasked man. A few other men stepped in to help defuse the situation, while Ross called for police officers and later stressed civility and asked community members to not resort to violence.
Here is the meeting video (the scuffle begins around the 40-minute, 50-second mark and the fight happens around the 48-minute, 50-second mark):
A few people who could be seen on the meeting video were wearing masks in the packed room. All but one of the school board members — Fred Berg — were masked, meeting video showed.
The district updated the mask policy because Carver County's 14-day case rate per 10,000 people is 50.38, which is above the district's threshold to increase making requirements for all students, regardless of vaccination status.
"I know this decision will be difficult for some in our community. As much as each of us wishes it were so, the pandemic is not over. Until that time, we must do everything we can to keep each other safe and healthy, and keep our students learning in-person," Superintendent Lisa Sayles-Adams said in a news release about the updated policy.
As of Sept. 23, a total of 89 COVID-19 cases among students and staff have been reported, while 363 students and 15 staff are in active quarantine, the district's COVID-19 dashboard shows. The data is updated every Thursday.