HANOVER COUNTY, Va. -- A contentious Hanover School Board meeting on Tuesday night ended with the decision to not require masks for the upcoming school year.
Earlier in the evening, however, Superintendent Michael Gill initially made a different recommendation that left many meeting attendants enraged. Gill initially recommended that all unvaccinated students and staff be required to wear a mask except while they were distancing outside.
He prefaced this recommendation by saying it wasn't a political move and he wanted to listen to local health officials and do what was best for the safety of students.
His recommendation came after dozens of parents and children came into Tuesday night's meeting with signs saying things like "No Masks" and "Our Children, Our Choice". Dozens of parents reiterated these messages both before the meeting and during public comment.
"Teachers, kids and everything involved, they have a choice. That's all we're asking, is if you wanna send your kid to school in a mask, let em," said Chad Porter.
Becky Hendricks said that if masks were required, she was concerned about her children's asthma.
"Not all disabilities are visible and so this is definitely something that is causing the kids who do have asthma, all three of my children do, issues throughout the school," a parent said.
But one parent who took the stand during public comment had a different perspective
"My concern is the vaccination of the teachers. I would like to see a mandate that teachers be vaccinated if they're going to be in a face-to-face setting," another meeting attendee said.
The final decision to not require masks was made by board member John Axelle who made a motion to make masking a choice for all parents and staff members except on school buses where masks are federally mandated.
Board members passed the motion with a final vote of 4-3. However, this vote is subject to change.
Board members passed it with the understanding that they will work with the superintendent to come up with a threshold in which if COVID cases in the county rise to a certain point, they will require masks.