As school districts across the country weigh all options about whether to require masks in schools, a similar debate is going on in one Tri-State community following the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who recommended students K through 12 wear a mask in school.
Sycamore school district has vocal parents on both sides of the debate.
“It’s vital that everyone is entitled to a safe and healthy school environment,” said Miranda Brady, who supports the mask requirement in schools.
Two of Brady’s children joined her and a handful of other parents at a protest Thursday to try to raise awareness about their belief that Sycamore community schools should require masks for everyone when students return to classrooms next month.
“It’s simple,” Brady said. “It’s rather be safe than sorry, because if we’re sorry that means that kids are going to be sick and in the hospital.
Alyssa Piljan-Gentle is a Sycamore parent and a pediatrician. She wants the district to listen to the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital – all of whom are recommending universal masking for children and adults in school.
“It’s not like we’re asking kids to do something extreme,” she said. “It’s just simply a piece of cloth.”
Piljan-Gentle acknowledges our region is in an okay spot right now as far as COVID-19 cases are concerned, but said that could change very quickly.
“If you look at other parts of the country, they’re having a really hard time with this delta variant and I don’t want us to get to that point,” she said. “I don’t want kids to have to start getting sick for there to be a change.”
Other parents disagree and want Sycamore schools to make masks optional – something the district recommended at its last board meeting.
“You only get one chance at childhood, right?” asked Sycamore parent Sarah Cormier, who supports optional masks. “So, we’re trying to ensure that for our kids and get them back to that as soon as possible.”
Sycamore Community Schools said masks will be encouraged for the upcoming year, but not required – although that safety plan is going to be discussed at a board meeting next Wednesday.
“The current recommendation to the board is based on the latest local health data available,” Sycamore Community Schools released in a statement. “Currently, the transmission rate of COVID-19 is very low and the vaccination rate among eligible residents is one of the highest in the area.”
Organizers of the mask-optional effort said more than 1,000 parents from the district support that plan.
“If we’re not going to take away the masks now, when? When is a good time?” asked Cormier. “I understand their argument is when (kids) can be vaccinated, but I don’t think that that will even happen, because then they won’t be happy with how many kids are vaccinated. It won’t be enough.”
Sycamore Community Schools said if the COVID-19 data changes locally, or there are new mandates or recommendations from local, state or federal health officials, that masking plan could change. But the plan now is to let families decide whether to mask their children or not.