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Parents, activists urge Hanover County School Board to reconsider mask vote

Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 5:13 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 11, 2021 at 6:54 PM EDT
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HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - Following a mask mandate established for all Virginia schools, Hanover County reversed its decision to make masks optional.

After a heated school board meeting on Tuesday night, in which the Hanover County School Board voted to make masks optional for the 2021-2022 school year, worried parents hoped for an overturning of that decision.

“Holocaust 2.0!” and “You work for us and not the other way around!” were yelled by people in the crowd on Wednesday night towards school board members.

Mother of three, Lynn Meyer, watched the meeting through a livestream.

“It was clear to me that this decision was not coming from a place of discussion. There wasn’t a lot of conversation about what was happening nationally in terms of COVID numbers going up,” she said.

Meyer worries for the safety of her children as they head towards the start of the school year now that masks are not required in school buildings.

On Wednesday, Meyer and other parents sent a letter to the board in the hopes they overturn their decision.

“Last year, the school safety protocols were terrific. My kids went to school, they wore masks every day, they became comfortable with it and they had to quarantine twice,” Meyer said.

She and other parents are now left with less than a month before their children report to the classrooms and some are considering alternatives.

“We’re going to see some families that are going to be really looking for at-home learning. Unfortunately, for our families, that window closed - that ability to enroll a child into virtual learning.”

The district posted online that parents who missed the June 18t deadline for opting into virtual learning will now be put on a waitlist.

In the meantime, Meyer’s letter suggests an advisory panel with health experts working with the board to better decipher national stats.

“At the end of the day, having somebody who specializes in medical data, who can understand what those terms are telling us and provide that guidance is important,” she added.

On Wednesday afternoon, the school district posted its mask guidelines for the 2021/2021 academic year. It does point out that the school board would work with Superintendent Dr. Michael Gill, who was in favor of a mask requirement, to monitor COVID-19 data in case masks were required in the future.

NBC12 did reach out to the HCPS Board Chair for a comment, but they have not yet responded.

In addition, the Hanover NAACP President, Pat Jordan blasted the board’s vote in a statement. He called it “reckless abandonment” and “a totally irresponsible decision.” The Hanover NAACP’s statement goes on to say:

“We call on the school board to reconvene in a special meeting, to hear from the same experts, who have informed Dr. Gill. We call for a reversal of this decision. The state standards require schools to have maximum mitigation standards, No mask is not a maximum mitigation strategy. As Dr. Gill pointed out, the numbers of Covid-19 in Hanover is the highest of other surrounding counties, yet we are the smallest of those counties, yet this school board refused to listen to science. The CDC is recommending masks, our own Chickahominy Health District is recommending masks.”

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