ENFIELD — About 65 people — students, parents and residents — packed the cafeteria at Enfield High School on Wednesday night for a Meet the Candidates night hosted by the school’s youth voting committee ahead of next week’s election.
For students, the event was an opportunity to learn more about the candidates for city council and school board, as well as an incentive to earn extra credit through their social studies course or possibly win something by drawing lots.
From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., candidates answered questions and comments through a row of tables aligned with their respective political parties, while attendees moved from candidate to candidate to ask questions and discuss issues. .
The students who participated were mostly from middle school and high school and, along with some applicants, spoke about having to wear face masks in school because of COVID-19. Everyone at Wednesday’s forum was required to wear a mask.
High school freshman Rebecca Beemiss, who came to the event to learn more about the contestants, said she thought the masks were necessary during class time.
“They must be mandatory,” she said. “It’s not safe with COVID right now. Even if you are vaccinated, there are always decisive cases. Believe me, I don’t like it either, but you have to deal with it to be safe.
Seventh grader Landon Kulas had a different opinion.
“I prefer to learn at school rather than at home. If we could be in school without masks, I would love that,” he said.
Democratic school board member Amanda Pickett, who was nominated in September to fill the seat of the late Joyce Hall and is seeking her first full term on the board, said while she also doesn’t like masks, it’s important to wear them in schools to be safe.
“I never want to disrespect people’s feelings, beliefs or thoughts about them, so I try to emphasize a message of safety,” she said, “and come up with creative solutions. like more mask breaks.
Republican school board member Jonathan LeBlanc, who is seeking re-election, offered a different view and noted that the decision to mandate masks in schools is state policy, not local policy.
“I just don’t feel like the kids are affected that much. The way the masks are worn, or if they’re not clean, I think can potentially do more harm than good. Right now, it’s beyond the control of the local school board,” LeBlanc said.
Last month, Governor Ned Lamont extended the mask mandate in schools until February 22.
For some students, like eighth grader Mackenzie Hannah, participating in the forum had nothing to do with extra credit, but rather a way to get questions answered.
“I had questions more directed at the Board of Education about what is happening in schools and possible new programs that could be introduced,” she said, adding that she wanted to hear answers from both sides. .
Hannah’s mother, Nicole Sharon, said the forum was beneficial as she moved to Enfield last year and hearing first hand what the candidates have to say on various issues will help her decide who to vote for in her first municipal election as a resident.