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Pender County Board of Education hears from dozens of people for push to change mask mandate

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 1:11 AM EDT
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BURGAW, N.C. (WECT) - The Pender County Board of Education met Tuesday night for a few agenda items, but the main focus was on an update on the COVID-19 situation throughout the county.

Dozens of parents, teachers, and even students showed up to voice their concerns. More than 40 people signed up to speak: 20 in person, 22 via voicemail, and 1 email that was read.

Parents and grandparents that spoke during the public comment period simply wanted their voices to be heard and concerns to be considered when the board revisits the COVID-19 protocols in schools.

One student talked about her belief that masks are doing more harm than good for her and her classmates. “It’s almost detrimental to build relationships with my teachers, and that relationship is important because it helps facilitate my education. Masks were added to the list of distractions in a classroom because everyone is so focused on wearing it right that they don’t even get the chance to tune into the lesson,” she said.

Another student highlighted her struggle with masks due to a hearing impairment, because she isn’t able to read lips when people are wearing masks. “Some of my friends are scared to take their mask off. I still love my friends, I respect their decisions. It doesn’t make sense that I can play with my friends after school without a mask, but if I’m on the playground at school I have to wear one,” she said.

Parents that spoke out simply wanted to have the option whether their child should wear a mask in school or not, many of them saying that they know their children best, and it should be their decision, not the school board’s. One parents expressed concern over the mask mandate because she says it’s distracting for time that students can spend learning, instead of having to worry about having to wear a mask properly. She also added that she has four special needs children and she wants the school board and leaders in these schools to understand that this mandate shouldn’t be a one size fits all situation. “Going about this in such a black and white, there is no in between way. There has to be an alternative. There has to be. This is not beneficial to everyone, and the only way that we can find an alternative is to include the community,” she said.

While majority of the people who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting were hoping action would be taken to take away the mask mandate, a handful of parents left a voicemail that was played during public comment, urging the board to keep the mask mandate in place for safety reasons.

A spokesperson from Pender County Schools said the board will be revisiting their COVID-19 protocols at the next meeting on September 21st at 9 a.m., as they are required to review it once a month. The spokesperson also noted that it will be a tough decision for the board next week after hearing from dozens of community members, both for and against the mask mandate.

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