New Hanover County Board of Education updates public comment policies, group protests masks

It was a packed house at the start of the New Hanover County Board of Education meeting, where parents expected school board members to discuss the current mas
Published: Feb. 15, 2022 at 7:56 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 16, 2022 at 5:05 AM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - It was a packed house at the start of the New Hanover County Board of Education meeting, where parents expected school board members to discuss the current mask mandate.

Masks have been the hot topic at school board meetings across America, but they weren’t on the agenda on Tuesday night.

“I understand both sides,” said board member Nelson Beaulieu. “I understand the passion behind both groups. Everybody is just trying to protect their kids.”

Those who attend school board meetings are required to wear a mask. Once the group got inside Tuesday night’s meeting, they removed their masks, and a few got vocal with board members.

“It’s just disrespectful,” said Chair Stephanie Kraybill. “Everyone knows you’re not supposed to do that. Everyone knows what good rules of decorum are.”

People of all ages were a part of the group protesting masks in schools.

Even kids from New Hanover County schools came to the meeting with their parents to be heard.

“I’d just tell them to take these masks off of us so we can see our friends,” said New Hanover County fifth grader Tannor Flewwellin. “So our friends can see us as who we are, instead of who we are with masks on our nose and on our face.”

Board members considered a number of different policies at the meeting Tuesday evening.

In past meetings, they’ve discussed changing the way the public comment portion of their meeting is held.

They voted unanimously to have at least three meetings per year, solely dedicated to hearing the public’s concerns. These meetings will last no longer than two hours, and will hopefully stop outbursts in meetings.

The goal for the town hall style meetings is to have more of a conversation between school board members and those who come to speak, as opposed to a hostile debate.

“Parents are going to get, and the community is going to get, a lot of opportunity to talk to us,” said Kraybill. “I don’t even want to call it a ‘call to the audience’, because they talk at us, we look and listen. I want it to be more of a two-way, interactive — you ask, we give answers.”

The board debated a policy that would allow the board chair to adjourn any board meeting that lasts longer than 4.5 hours. In the event of a meeting reaching that point, the items remaining on the agenda would be moved to the next board meeting.

After discussing the policy, board members decided to withdraw it.

Kraybill says she is still going to work with the board to try and shorten these meetings.

“That is one thing that I really will continue to work with the board on,” said Kraybill. “There is no reason for us to be here past 9 o’clock.”

The board is expected to meet virtually on Wednesday at 1:30 pm to vote and discuss the district’s mask mandate.

The public can watch remotely on New Hanover County School’s YouTube Channel.

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