To mask or not to mask: Schools getting pressure to lift mandate

Published 9:08 am Thursday, July 29, 2021

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By Mike Barnhardt

Enterprise Record

Matt Johnson has two children in the Davie County School System.

Like all parents, he put masks on them last year before they went to school.

But more than once, his children came home with someone else’s mask.

It’s one of many reasons he says the Davie Board of Education should not require children to wear masks as school begins next month. He took his concerns to the board of education in early July.

On Tuesday, the board meets again at 4 p.m. at Central Davie. They will be met by Johnson and others who want the mask mandate gone.

It won’t be an easy decision, as Superintendent Jeff Wallace said at the same July meeting that the district was waiting on guidance from the state. They got that guidance – sort of – last week. Rather than mandating masks, the new guidelines say that masks “should” be required.

“We do not know exactly what’s going to happen,” Wallace told board members. “I caution you, when you read in the media, just be careful.”

He said he learned two things from a recent session with the ABC Collaborative, a group that helps guide school decisions: that the vaccines work, and that masks work.

Superintendents, he said, have been asking for clear guidance from the state.

Johnson said his family has a saying they teach their children: “Be bold. Be loving. Have courage. Be joyful. And always trust in Jesus.”

He urged the board members to “be bold” and make wearing masks optional.

“If we don’t get back to normal now, without masks and without mandatory vaccination requirements, then we never will. The psychological affect is huge. It is detrimental to the future success of our kids.”

He stressed that if parents want their children to wear masks, they should be allowed to do so. “That’s on you as a parent,” he said.

Johnson quoted Dr. Danny Benjamin from the ABC Collaborative that said there is no data as to what would happen if children are not masked. Johnson mentioned a Texas school district with no restrictions and no difference in virus transmission. “Everybody said, if you don’t mask, cases are going to skyrocket. That didn’t happen.”

Masks, he said, don’t work well with elementary-age children.

“We’ve reached herd immunity. It’s as good as it’s going to get. Viruses get weaker and change. That’s science. Don’t fall for this fear-mongering again. It’s ridiculous that all of these doctors are too afraid of the cancel culture.”

He urged the board members to make a decision prior to the August meeting, which they did not do.

Wallace praised his staff for their COVID mitigation efforts during the past year, and said Davie County Schools is still the best choice for parents in the area.

During the last school year, nurses performed 751,946 virus screenings. A total of 505 staff members were vaccinated, and 40 students via the school system. A total of 116 staff members tested positive, as did 340 students.

The system will participate in a federal program that will allow for weekly voluntary COVID testing for staff and students.