VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – In a 4-6 vote Tuesday night, the Virginia Beach city school board rejected a proposal to make masks optional in school for the upcoming school year.
Nearly 50 speakers signed up to voice their concerns over the growing debate over students wearing masks inside classrooms.
“You’re all hypocrites,” said Annie Palumbo as she addressed the board. “You’re sitting here without masks and want our kids masked. No, we’re fighting.”
At least one parent who called in over the phone spoke in support of masking kids until they all can be vaccinated.
The spirited school board meeting lasted four hours. A majority of parents gave emotional arguments on masking school children.
“Adults have access to the vaccine,” said Lindsey Bohon, a mother of four. “It’s time to let our children resume normal life, see their teachers’ and classmates’ faces and for our children to stop living in fear.”
Thomas Conant addressed the board demanding Virginia Beach schools drop the mask policy inside the classroom.
“It’s not a difficult recipe,” he said. “That’s what your job is. Do your job and take the masks off our kids and stick to education.”
Tensions rose at times with speakers asking school board members to stop interrupting them during their four-minutes for allegedly going off-topic.
“That is case law in the United States of America,” said parent Shay Coleman as she defended her right to speak. “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to live here.”
The board ultimately decided to take a 15-minute recess.
A short time later, the board called to take another brief break after one speaker used her time to play a song to speak out against the policy. The board chair and vice chair called it disruptive.
Some parents said they’re frustrated over the many mask changes.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently broke with CDC guidance, recommending everyone should mask up in schools regardless of their vaccination status.
Many parents argued they should have the choice to mask their kids.
“Parents should have a voice,” said VBCPS parent Annie Palumbo. “My body, my choice. That’s what we believe and that’s what we’re sticking with.”
A no-mask rally took place ahead of the meeting. With the start of the school year just around the corner, parents are reinforcing their fight to unmask their kids inside the classroom.
Children like 8-year-old Ryan Winfree, who are too young to get the vaccine, spoke out against masks.
“It gives me headaches when I wear it all day when I’m at school,” said the Creeds Elementary student. “It makes me that I can’t see my friends smile and I can’t see them talk. Sometimes I can’t understand, and I can’t breathe at all.”
Board members said the school administration is expected to update its guidance on masks August 10.
In a statement to News 3, School Board Chair Carolyn Rye said, “With respect to indoor student mask use for SY 2021-22, VBCPS continues to monitor and consider relevant agency guidance at the federal, state and local levels as it becomes available. Families and staff will be kept informed as any new decisions involving masking are made.”
Currently, there is a state mandate requiring students, faculty, staff and visitors wear masks inside the classroom but that is set to expire on Sunday, July 25.