VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Virginia Beach public school students made their voices and concerns heard in the growing debate over masks.
Fifth grade student Teagan Mackaye, 11, spoke out at a rally held outside the school administration building Tuesday evening.
“It’s very hard wearing a mask seven hours a day, four days a week,” Mackaye said. “It’s super hard.”
Mackaye waiting hours to address his school board Tuesday night. He and others are demanding schools drop the mask requirement inside the classroom.
“In the SOL test, we had to take it for two hours, and it was really hard to think because it was a reading test and it was really hard to breathe,” he said.
Virginia Beach City Public Schools, along with several other school districts in Hampton Roads, lifted the mask policy while kids are outside for recess or physical education, but the rules haven’t changed for inside the classroom.
Fifth grade student Charlotte Levow, 11, stood in solidarity with her classmates.
“I feel like it doesn't make a difference because inside we have to be spaced out when we’re wearing a mask, but outside, we don't have to be spaced out when we’re not wearing a mask,” Charlotte Levow said.
More than a week after Virginia changed its mask guidance no longer requiring a mask for fully vaccinated people indoors with some exceptions, including inside schools, parents argue they should have the choice.
One parent held a sign that read, “My child. My choice. Unmask the kids.”
Charlotte Levow’s mother Monica Levow is fighting to unmask kids for the rest of this school year and the upcoming school year.
“It's just really detrimental to their health,” Monica Levow said. “It really has not served any purpose other than to just cover their face.”
A scheduled school board meeting took place inside the administration building at the same time as the rally.
School Board Members At-Large Laura Hughes and Victoria Manning said their request to add a mask policy resolution on the agenda was denied by the chair and vice chair.
"Non-agenda speakers speak after the formal meeting's over and the cameras are off, so it's not part of the record," Hughes said. "A really great way to control the narrative, which is what they like to do frequently, is to not allow people to speak on things while it's being recorded."
However, shortly after the 6 p.m. meeting started, the mask resolution was added.
“I will put this up for a vote for the collective board on adding this as an agenda item,” said School Board Chair Carolyn Rye.
Manning said adding the item at the start of the meeting leaves many in the dark.
"That's not allowing the public to have notification about what's on our agenda and what we're going to be discussing," she said. "Then, if they want to come and speak to it, they're not going to be on camera, and our doors are closed to the public right now, which is a shame because city council's allowing people to come into their meetings. This is about transparency and bringing the public, who we represent, into the conversation."
The school board will meet again on June 8, where more people will be able to sign up and weigh in on the mask policy.
In the meantime, parents will be outside the administration building once again rallying to unmask their kids.