It was impossible not to notice the sea of canary yellow shirts with matching yellow cloth masks during the May 11 meeting of the West Ada School Board. With the discussion topic regarding the mask mandate that evening, nearly 100 parents in the district filled the board’s chamber on the second floor of Renaissance High School, so much so that there was a viewing area in the side corridor for overflow attendees.
The yellow-clad Smile West Ada group is led by David Binetti, who lives in Eagle and has two daughters (a third and sixth grader) in the West Ada School District. Binetti purchased all the yellow shirts and started the campaign that currently has over 1,700 patrons of the district signed up on his website.
Binetti said he’s passionate about being civically engaged, but even more so, he’s passionate about his two children.
Binetti is a consultant, who said he has a lot of flexibility in his work life to take part in things like school board meetings and putting together the Smile West Ada group.
“When you’re doing things for your children, money isn’t all that important,” Binetti said, adding that he’s watched every board meeting this year and likes to be involved.
During his public testimony in that meeting, Binetti wanted the board to make masks optional for the final two weeks of the 2020-2021 school year. Binetti was petitioning for more student/parent choice when it comes to wearing masks in schools, adding that he believes the masks are helping to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“We do support masks. We do believe they are effective,” Binetti said during his public comment. “We just don’t believe that they are worth the trade-offs and the costs they represent to our children and that we, as parents, deserve a choice.”
The meeting ended with trustees voting unanimously to keep masks mandatory while indoors, but making them optional while outdoors, during meals, and before and after school. The board also voted to make masks optional for all summer activities and to reconvene later in the summer to make a decision for mask rules for the 2021-2022 school year.
Despite not getting exactly what he wanted from the meeting, Binetti said he was happy with the results, adding that there are still some issues that are left unresolved and in need of clarification.
“Significant steps forward,” Binetti called the May 11 meeting.
Binetti did apply for the board vacancy in the winter, which was won by Rusty Coffelt, and said he has no plans to run for the board right now.
“Anything is possible,” Binetti laughed, adding that his only focus right now is to keep working to get masks to be optional at West Ada.
Binetti added that his second priority in West Ada meetings is to make sure the discussion is civil.
“We don’t need to have rancor in public discourse,” he said.
Just 24 hours after the West Ada meeting, Nampa School Board’s meeting was cut short by chair Mandy Simpson after members of the crowd jeered someone who spoke for the mask mandate during the public comment section of the meeting. Simpson had told members of the audience not to clap or cheer during testimony. The meeting lasted just 20 minutes before being adjourned without any vote. Binetti said he was disappointed to see what happened at the Nampa meeting.
Binetti added that he has been in contact with West Ada Education Association President Eric Thies, saying that there has been good, productive communication between the two sides of the mask debate.
“Good people can disagree on important issues,” Binetti said.