Parents at odds over Governor Cooper's guidance for masking in schools

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Some parents are at odds with Governor Roy Cooper's latest guidance that suggests children continue to wear their masks in schools as COVID-19 cases are back on the rise in the state.

A spokesperson for the Wake County Public School System said they are reviewing the guidance now and that the board is expected to discuss it at its Aug. 3 meeting. No decisions are expected before that date.

Meanwhile, a Durham Public Schools spokesperson said they'll continue to enforce their mask policies and that the board will discuss the new guidance next month.

RELATED: Data shows roughly 1 in 4 Durham COVID-19 cases are in children under 17

According to the governor's guidance, high schoolers who are fully vaccinated can go maskless indoors. Or school administrators could make it possible that masks are required in all grades, regardless of vaccination status. It's up to the districts to decide.

For districts that forego the guidance and allow people who aren't fully vaccinated to go without a mask, the health department says there needs to be a mitigation strategy, including physical distancing, ventilation, hand hygiene and enough access to COVID-19 screening and testing.

Georgia, who said she doesn't want to use her last name because of how politicized the issue has become, has a first-grader who goes to a Wake County school. She, along with more than 900 people, signed a petition, asking Wake County schools to keep its mask mandate.

"It's very important to protect the vulnerable here. For the mom fighting cancer, for newborn babies at home, for immunocompromised family members," Georgia said.

Brook Taylor, a Sampson County mother, feels masks should be optional -- not mandated. Her daughter, Kylie, is going into kindergarten. Taylor decided to move her to a private school, where masks aren't required.

"They need that full five days a week, unmasked class time," Taylor said. "They need to be kids. They need to hug each other. They need to learn to share. They need to socialize. They just need to be normal kids and with the masking, you're not going to be able to be normal."

Taylor said children's mental health is just as important as their physical health.

"These kids need some sort of normalcy," Taylor said. "Their lives last year had been turned upside down. They were not able to go to school. They weren't able to go play on the playground. I mean their lives were turned upside down. They were shut inside for just about a year."

Georgia questions how districts would be able to determine who is vaccinated and who isn't.

"I think that it's going to be tricky to know who, of the high school population, is vaccinated, and who is not and unless the schools are actually going to be able to enforce and be able to tell who is vaccinated, I think it creates a situation where we could see more spread, especially with the Delta variant becoming rampant in the country," Georgia said.
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