Parents opposed to requiring students to wear masks in Glynn County Schools claimed Tuesday that the mandate goes against the law and causes harm to the health and learning abilities of their children.
Numerous parents addressed the Glynn County Board of Education at its meeting and insisted that the mandate be lifted to allow parents to make personal health decisions for individual students.
“All we’re asking for is a choice for everyone. That includes parents on the other side of this. We just want a choice. I don’t want to take it away from anyone,” said one mother, who brought a carbon dioxide monitor that she said measured CO2 levels in the room as well as inside a child’s mask. She demonstrated what she claimed were dangerous levels of carbon dioxide by holding the monitor inside her child’s mask for about a minute.
When asked to step away from the podium after exceeding her five-minute allotment of speaking time, she continued speaking until Glynn County Schools Police Chief Rod Ellis approached and informed her she was disrupting the public meeting.
The school district’s mask mandate has been in place since the second week of the academic year, when COVID-19 case numbers among students and staff exceeded the 1% benchmark that required all schools to enter the “yellow” level of operations, which include the mask requirement.
Heather Baxley, also a parent, said this mandate goes against the directives of Gov. Brian Kemp’s office.
“If this madness continues and you ignore our plea, we respectfully ask Dr. Spence, his staff and those on this board that have voted and carried out motions to violate this executive order for your resignation,” she said.
Following the public input, school board member John Madala asked the school board’s attorney to check if the district’s procedures go against any law.
“I would like our lawyer and our legal representatives to look at these things and let us know if there are any things we are doing illegal that we shouldn’t be doing,” he said.
When the school board returned to the discussion of masks in schools later in the meeting, Scott Spence, superintendent, said he expects to see the district enter the “green” level of operations after Friday, as COVID-19 case numbers among staff and students have dropped in recent weeks following the district’s move to distance learning after numbers sharply increased in August.
The district had to close at that time because so many staff members were sick, he said.
“Tomorrow we’ll have 11 teachers out with COVID, instead of 80,” he said.
But COVID-19 numbers are still much higher so far this school year than at any point last year, he said.
“Even right now, as low as our numbers are, they’re higher than at any point, at any time, last year. Right this second during the school year,” Spence said.
Masks are strongly recommended in the green level but not required. The district will announce Friday what level of operations schools will be in next week.
School board member Mike Hulsey asked Spence to keep an open mind about making masks a personal choice for students no matter if schools are in the green or yellow operational level.
Spence said he’d be open to changing the district’s plans if the school board voted for him to do so.
“I work for the Glynn County Board of Education, and I try to do the best I can for our students and for our teachers and for our parents,” he said. “If you guys take a vote and tell me that you guys want me to make it optional then that’s what I’m going to do.”
In other business, the school board vote unanimously to approve:
• A guaranteed maximum price is $9.59 million for phase three of renovation work at St. Simons Elementary, as well as a resolution and capital outlay contract that will allow the local district to use state funding for a later phase of the project.
• An IXL site license for a K-12 comprehensive learning platform.
• Two grants for fiscal year 2022: the CTAE Perkins V grant and the Nita M. Lowery 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant.
• An MOU with Glynn County Emergency Response and Recovery that will allow emergency workers to set up operations in Brunswick High during a hurricane and allow the use of school buses for the Need-A-Ride evacuation program.