school mask mandate

Parents, Teachers & Students Discuss State Mask Mandate for Schools

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In less than two weeks, the state could learn if Gov. Lamont's mask mandate for schools will stand for students around the state.

On Wednesday morning, the state's Board of Education held a meeting in which several people from the community, including parents, teachers and students showed up to share their concerns about the mask mandate.

The debate comes days away from a potential legislative session and vote to extend Lamont's executive order for masking in schools. The mandate is set to end on Feb. 15.

Chari Norton spoke in front of the board on behalf of an anonymous teacher.

"Lots of students are now more than a year behind academically," said Norton. "I see teachers being unkind to students, when they do not have their mask on properly which is creating animosity for both teachers and students.”

Annabelle Miner is a student at Bristol Central High School and shared why she would like to see the mask mandate come to an end.

"You're supposed to do something, anything to protect students like me," said Miner. "I've had my final year of education in sports ripped from my hands, my administration will not allow me to participate in sports."

The state's largest teacher union and some other educators believe the best measure to take would be to extend the mask mandate in schools.

"Our teachers are sitting in spaces of primarily unvaccinated individuals in poorly ventilated areas, doing the very best that they can to get through an unprecedented situation," said Kate Dias, who is the president for the Connecticut Education Association. “We have gone through a really difficult surge that was frightening, but my teachers showed up.”

Some parents like Meredith Nielson believes a mask decision should be left up to individual school districts.

"School boards across the state are feeling pressured from the top and are shutting parents out," said Nielson.

A decision on mask mandates could come as soon as next week.

“It does raise a little concern because a lot of school-aged children are not vaccinated yet and so one of the best layers that we can offer them is masks," said Dr. Jody Terranova, who is the president-elect for Connecticut's chapter of the American Academy Pediatrics. “The numbers are too high right now and there’s a little bit of a risk when we take it away at the state level and put it on the local level where it becomes a little less about public health and sometimes a little bit more political.”

With the deadline approaching, state leaders would like to see a decision made within the coming days.

"We’re taking a good hard look at the numbers and are going to make up our mind I say in less than a week," said Lamont.

"There are issues with phonics and language development and socialization and it’s about time for kids to go to school and see somebody smile," said State House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora (R).

CT State Board of Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker issued this statement to NBC Connecticut:

"We have received numerous inquiries on the continuation of COVID-19 policies and procedures after February 15, 2022 within schools. At this time, Governor Lamont has asked the Connecticut General Assembly to extend a number of Executive Orders in order to codify some of them into law, if needed. The Connecticut State Department of Education and the Connecticut Department of Public Health are prepared to provide updated masking and mitigation guidance when and if the need arises after a decision is made by the Connecticut General Assembly."

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