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Hanover parents divided on whether masking in schools should continue

Posted at 7:43 AM, Jan 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-24 08:05:41-05

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. — Parents, teachers and school staff in Hanover County will have a chance to voice their opinions about whether or not masks should be mandatory in schools at a special school board meeting Monday night.

The school board will meet at 6 p.m. to vote on whether or not they'll follow Governor Glenn Youngkin's executive order to make masking in schools optional.

Hanover students are off Monday, so the decision will take effect Tuesday.

Parents in the county seem to be divided on the issue.

Mom of four, Amanda Plemons, has signed up to speak at Monday night's meeting. She's hoping the board votes to follow the governor's executive order.

"I definitely believe it should be choice," said Plemons. "I definitely believe that parents who have children who are immune compromised, or even just feel a sense of security with the cloth mask, shouldn't be bullied or shouldn't be any. you know, hate towards that. But you know, we have to have our freedoms."

Plemons added that she believes masking has impacted her daughter's ability to make new friends at school.

"She's not getting to see facial expressions of her teachers or of her peers," said Plemons. "She doesn't know if they're happy with her, if they're angry with her, if they're sad, if they're having a good day or bad day. So she tells me all the time, she doesn't know if her friends like her since coming here."

But not everyone is on board with optional masking.

Karyn Younkins said she is considered high-risk for COVID-19, and she actually wanted a virtual option for her daughter at the beginning of the school year — but she said the district didn't give her an option.

"When I called to ask for virtual learning, I was declined," Younkins explained. "She could only go into virtual learning if she was exposed to COVID. And I explained my health conditions, explained this was a special circumstances, and I'm sure there are others like me, that are vulnerable populations who live with these precious kids."

Younkins said her ``10-year-old is vaccinated, but not eligible for a booster shot. She wants mandatory masking in school for her safety and her daughter's.

"Please listen to the science behind this," said Younkins. "Our teachers are our resources. Our children are so precious. We need to protect everybody, and this is such a simple way of doing it."

CBS 6 spoke to some parents, like Megan Cheely, who say they can see both sides of the mask debate.

Cheely works in healthcare and said COVID-19 took her grandmother from her. However, she also acknowledged the rules around masking can be confusing, saying her son wears a mask at school, but not when he’s playing team sports with friends.

Cheely added that her son will still wear a mask regardless of the school board’s decision, but she also supports parent choice.

"I am quite on the fence between yes, wearing the mask and no wearing the mask," she noted. "I think it's important that we all protect each other and any way that we can keep people from getting sick, but I do feel like parents know what's best for their kids. And I don't feel like, you know, at the end of the day, anybody should tell them what they should do with their child."

Back in August, Hanover County voted to make masks optional, but then reversed their decision days later following then Governor Ralph Northam’s order that universal masking was required in K-12 schools to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Hanover County will allow public comment at Monday night's meeting, and the sign up for that ended Friday. However, the board will also accept written comments through 9 a.m. Monday. You can email your comments to sbpubliccomment@hcps.us

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