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Masks debated at Mon BOE meeting

Tuesday was the first day of school in Monongalia County.

Students who dutifully reported did so with their mouths breaking into grins.

Or, set into trepidation.

The look either way wasn’t fully revealed, because of the face masks they were wearing, by district mandate.

Which, depending upon your perspective if one of those returning kids is yours, was either a strong shot at keeping a renewed pandemic at bay – or a personal affront at your parental sensibilities, keeping you from doing what you think is right as a mom or dad.

Board of Education members heard plenty from both sides of the argument during their first meeting of the new academic year that evening.

In a public comment period that took the first 90 minutes of the meeting, 21 parents – for and against the mandate – addressed the board directly.

Before that, county health director Dr. Lee B. Smith and other local health officials made remarks, all in favor of the mandate made by the board – which was a reversal of an earlier call to allow the school year to commence without masks.

Smith said the county’s do-over call was “reasonable,” given the surge of the highly infectious Delta variant across the Mountain State.

For Kanawha County, which went back to school two weeks ago, positive cases are already going to the front of the class, as reported MetroNews Tuesday.

Charleston’s Capitol High has already notched 29 cases, the network said.

Eighteen cases were reported at John Adams Middle, along with another 14 and 10 at George Washington High and Horace Mann Middle, respectively.

Ridgedale Elementary assistant principal Amber Zackery (right), points kids in the right direction on the first day of school.

At Mon’s meeting, most of the parents chided the BOE for not giving them the say.

Brandon Myers, the father of two in county schools, said the board was heavy-handed in the call to mask.

“It’s my job to parent my children,” he said. “If anything, it [masking] should be optional.”

Several other parents said their children suffered from headaches and nosebleeds – not to mention the frustration and anxiety of having to wear a mask eight hours a day, five days a week in the closed environment of a school.

Carmen Abreu applauded in-person learning, but decried the mask mandate, also.

Four of her children are in county schools, she said, and while two of them can tolerate wearing masks, the other two don’t fare as well, she said.

All four, she said, have come home with tales of masks being dropped on restroom floors – only be scooped back up and slapped back on.

Julie Cryser, the mother of two honor students in high school, said her kids have groused more about the isolation wrought by the pandemic last year, over any mandated wearing of masks.

Masks are necessary, said the mom, who wears an N-95 one daily in her job.

“I hope you continue to listen to the scientists,” she said.

So does Chris Martin, a physician and public health educator, who sympathized with the board and the other public entities that will have to continue addressing the contagion and its variant strains this fall now that classes are back in session.

“You’re going to have a lot of angry, disgruntled parents, no matter what you do,” he said.

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