More than a dozen emails from concerned parents were read aloud during the Hall County School board meeting on Monday, April 26. Their message was clear — no mask mandate for next school year.
Aaron Turpin, Hall’s assistant superintendent of technology, read the letters aloud during the public comment portion of the meeting. Many remarked on how they believe mask-wearing has negatively affected children’s mental health. Each asked the board to dissolve the mask requirement for the 2021-2022 school year.
Mandy Simmons, a local parent, noted in her email that mask wearing should at least be optional in schools.
“It is proven our children are not affected by the virus,” she stated. “The vaccine is available, and the people who wanted the vaccine have done so, yet we continue to force our kids to wear masks for 7 hours a day, including PE … I’m not OK with this, this is unfair, this is not healthy, physically and mentally. Enough is enough.”
Leah Miller, a mother of four, expressed via email how she was grateful that her two oldest children have been able to attend school at Martin Elementary.
“At first, putting a mask on my child felt like a safe thing to do, and it has been,” her message read. “But now after their masks come home dirty and soggy from being chewed on, I no longer believe this is the safest thing. The amount of germs being spread can’t possibly be good.”
She ended her comment by asking the board to listen to parents' concerns and consider their request.
Natalie Wilson, another parent whose message was read aloud, shared a petition she started on Change.org, one that proposes optional mask-wearing in Hall County schools for the 2021-2022 school year. As of Tuesday evening, the petition had 483 signatures.
“We appreciate your boldness and faith by proceeding with in-person school this year and know you care for our children,” Wilson stated in her message.
Superintendent Will Schofield responded to the comments, explaining that he respects their concerns and hopes to begin next school year “in what looks like normal.”
“To make a decision today about something that’s coming up five months from now, it would not be prudent,” he added.
Nath Morris, vice chairman, said the board had no plans to vote on the mask mandate during the Monday meeting, but agreed with “a lot of comments that were said.” He encouraged everyone to consider getting vaccinated for COVID-19.
“The quicker we can get vaccinated, I think the quicker we can get back to a sense of normalcy,” he said.
Board member Mark Pettitt said he appreciated everyone’s comments.
“It’s great to see folks speaking out,” he said. “And, I hear you, I share many of your sentiments. I know that this board and this central office is ready to get back to normal, and our staff and our schools are, too. We’re working to get back to normal as quickly and as safely as possible.”