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Mask debate in Chesapeake Schools reignites despite state mandate

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Posted at 12:15 AM, Aug 24, 2021

CHESAPEAKE, Va. – Across the country, as the COVID-19 surge worsens, and children head back to school, arguments over wearing masks are intensifying.

The ongoing discussion over masks in classrooms reignited at Monday night’s school board meeting in Chesapeake.

The topic was still up for debate despite the governor’s order for universal masking in all schools.

More than 50 speakers took to the podium during the meeting. A majority of the speakers voiced their opinion on masks, emotionally speaking out arguing that they know what’s best for their child.

“My son deserves safe, consistent in-person instruction this year, as does every student enrolled in CPS,” said Amanda Lambert, a CPS ninth grade teacher and mother of an 11-year-old son. “Defying the mandate hurls all that into limbo as we've seen in the south, where schools are shutting down left and right. That's not okay, and that can't happen here.”

With classes set to begin in just two weeks, the topic of masks was once again a school board agenda item.

Earlier this summer, the board voted to make masks optional but then reversed that decision more than a week ago following the state mask mandate for all school children.

Still, the hot button issue caused many parents to come forward urging school leaders to make masks optional once again. Many argued masking children brings on anxiety and causes breathing and health issues.

“Facial expressions are integral to human connection, particularly for young children who are only learning how to signal fear, confusion and happiness,” said one woman. “Covering a child's face mutes these nonverbal forms of communication and can result in robotic and emotionless interactions, anxiety and depression.”

Meantime, others pleaded with the board to keep the mandate in place to keep everyone safe and COVID from spreading.

“If you don’t want your kids to get the shot then you're free to roll the dice with your own kids’ health,” said parent John Lester. “Until the vaccine is available to all ages, no one has the right to put my children in danger by trying to avoid universal masking other mitigation measures in our schools.

Aspen Nolette has three kids in the school district and is also part of the group, Chesapeake Parents for Freedom.

“The State Health Commissioner’s order given to the public on August 12 is a fake order,” Nolette said. “Board, you know, the parents of Chesapeake know what is best for their children. I have a special needs son. I've been advocating for him since he was three years old, and I will not stop. I know what’s best for my child.”

Monday’s meeting lasted more than four hours. After all the parents spoke out, one school board member tried to introduce a motion to go back to making masks optional. That motion, however, was voted down.

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