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Parents have different views on mask requirements at Madison County School Board meeting

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 11:01 PM CDT
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RIDGELAND, Miss. (WLBT) - School is set to start in just days now, and districts across the metro are finalizing their COVID-19 policies ahead of students’ return to the classrooms.

The Madison County School District finalized their plans Monday.

They ultimately decided to keep masks optional for the most part. They will be required under certain circumstances such as when students are huddled together or on the school bus.

The Pearl Public School District will start the year in a similar manner. They strongly encourage masks but will keep them optional for the most part. Students and staff will be required to bring their masks every day and wear them when students are in close contact with each other.

Additionally, if the number of quarantined students exceeds 10% of the school’s population on any day, the Pearl Public School District will require students and staff to wear masks at all times for a minimum of the next ten school days.

Back in Madison County, parents didn’t hold back their opinions at the board meeting Monday night on what they felt to be the ideal reentry plan for the district.

Some in attendance even brought signs, urging the district to make masks optional.

A parent of three students in the district, Cherie Walker, said that’s exactly what she wanted going all the way back to last year.

“I don’t want my children to be masked for eight hours every day at school,” Walker said. “I felt like that would be more harmful to their health if they were already healthy.”

Another parent of a high school student in the district, Jan Richardson, said she has a PHD in microbiology and immunology and keeps close tabs on the virus.

“If you had asked me three weeks ago, I think we would be fine without masks,” Richardson said.

After seeing how transmissible the Delta variant is, she said she’d now feel better if they were required.

“At this point, if we had a population that was 80% vaccinated then we could be more comfortable not wearing masks,” Richardson said.

Monday, the Mississippi Department of Health reported nearly 5,000 new cases from over the weekend alone.

But Walker said she’s not phased by the surge.

“It doesn’t bother me,” she said. “My kids won’t be wearing [masks], and I feel like our kids’ health should be the parents’ decision.”

With the Madison County School District ultimately leaving the decision to mask-up with the parents, Richardson said she just hopes the kids who choose not to can stay safe.

“If it’s optional, we’ll do what we think is best, and we’ll trust other people to do that too,” she said.

The district’s superintendent hopes to release those plans to the public Tuesday by noon.

The Vicksburg Warren County School District is also strongly recommending, but not requiring, masks to be worn by all students and staff inside.

On the other hand, the Hinds County School District will require masks inside buildings this upcoming year.

The Rankin County School District expects to send out its reentry plan in the coming days.

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