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Pender County Schools reverses decision about face masks, parents split on ruling

Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 6:26 PM EDT
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PENDER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - The Pender County Board of Education announced Friday morning that students and staff members will not be required to wear face masks this fall.

“Since this pandemic started, I wanted to go without the mask ever since it started, so it’s really pretty much a dream come true to not have to wear it,” said student Colton Simpson.

The decision caused tension at the public meeting. One woman said to the board, “I really hope you know that you’re an embarrassment — straight up, an embarrassment. You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

But some parents are in support of the board’s decision.

“I believe it’s my choice if I want my kids to be with a mask or without a mask because it is our safety,” said parent Heather Harrell. “That’s what we choose and I choose that my child should breathe freely without a mask.”

The school board communicated on Tuesday that while it believes that parents should have a choice about the use of masks, it did not have the authority to lift the mandate.

But the following day, Governor Roy Cooper announced guidance from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services that would ease mask requirements for schools effective July 30th.

Cooper mentioned that students in Kindergarten through eighth grade should wear masks, as well as unvaccinated high schoolers, but he did not mandate masks.

“Our board just wanted to do what they were legally allowed to,” said Alex Riley, the communications coordinator with Pender County Schools. “They’ve been talking with their constituency and trying to listen to people to see what the majority has in mind. Hence, the resolution today.”

A resolution that will give parents and students a choice.

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