POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Locals attended a rally at the Portneuf Wellness Complex on Wednesday to share their grievances with the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District's handling of the pandemic.
The Patriot Rally for Full School, Full Sports, Mask Choice was meant to "influence the school board's decision on Friday by coming together to have our voices heard in support of our students," according to the Facebook event page.
Jonny Fisher and his wife, Melissa, organized the rally in order to gather what he calls the "silent majority." Through conversations and informal Facebook polls, he believes most parents, teachers and students want to return to school full time.
“In the state of Idaho, for anybody under 30, we’ve had 13,800 cases. And of those cases, we’ve had zero deaths. So what is the risk? I’m not saying COVID isn’t real, I work in health care, I know COVID is real, I know it poses risks, just like many other viruses,” Fisher said.
Among Fisher were about 150 people who attended, almost none of whom wore masks outside. At the end of the rally, Fisher asked people to raise their hands if they were with District 25, though nobody did.
Several attendees, both students and parents, gave testimonials of their individual challenges with the district's changes.
“I came from California 30 days ago because our kids aren’t at school in California. So we came here so they could be in school, because we all know their mental health needs it,” one attendee said during the open-mic portion of the rally.
State Senator Steven Thayn also spoke at the rally, emphasizing his belief that students and teachers who want to be in school should have the option to be full-time.
“Each individual should weigh the risks of their situation and the school district should provide opportunities to fulfill their educational goals,” Thayn said.
Fisher, who's family is well known for the creation of Brooklyn's Playground, said he takes issue with the way the district has handled the return to class.
“I can guarantee that right now, COVID is roaming the halls of every high school. Most kids are asymptomatic; we just don’t know about it. And then we hear about a positive case and we want to shut down the entire school,” Fisher said in regards to Bonneville High School closing on Wednesday due to a positive case of COVID-19.
Many people spoke about the risks to students' mental health since they aren't able to socialize as much or as well due to the pandemic.
Fisher's daughter, Brooklyn, started 9th grade this year at Highland High School, where she doesn't know many people. The friend she does have at school goes to class on alternate days as her.
“So we encouraged her to go to school, make new friends, put yourself out there. So she goes to her first day of school and what happens? Everybody’s wearing masks. What happens when she gets in the classrooms? Everybody’s social distanced, everybody’s away from each other," Fisher said.
"We pick her up from school and she’s trying her hardest but we can tell something’s wrong. When we got home, she just started bawling. She didn’t talk to a single person the entire day."
In a statement to Local News 8, District 25 said they have a responsibility to the education and safety of their learners.
"We respect that families want what they deem best for their own children and we weigh that feedback with several other factors involved in making these tough decisions," said Courtney Fischer, the district's spokeswoman.
The district will reassess the current instructional model on Friday, Sept. 18 at 9:00 a.m. The meeting is open to the public and attendees may request to appear before the board to share their feedback. Concerns and feedback may also be shared directly to the Board or by emailing email@example.com.