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Parents push to end mask mandate for students at Iredell-Statesville Schools

The district says it must stick to the mask policy based on statewide mandates.

STATESVILLE, N.C. — It was a packed house with plenty of passion at Monday night’s Iredell-Statesville School board meeting as the heated debated unfolded about whether students should be required to wear masks at all times in school.

RELATED: Vaccine providers prepare to accept adolescents for COVID-19 shots, following FDA emergency approval

A group of parents gathered with signs outside of the school board meeting to make their message clear. One sign read “unmask our kids!” another, "my child my choice"

Credit: WCNC Charlotte

Carrie Prejean-Boller is a concerned mom who says as a parent, it should be her choice to decide if her children should or should not wear a mask in school.

“We were all nervous about the pandemic early on, but we are not scared of it anymore,” Prejean-Boller said. “It’s time for the end of it.”

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Many other parents came to address the school board about their mask concerns too, but Gracie Caminiti, a seventh-grader at Woodland Heights Middle School, was the only student to speak to the board about her personal masking wearing experience in school.

“Every day I come home from school I have something wrong -- my throat hurts, my head aches -- because you have to wear the masks the whole day," Caminiti said.

Caminiti explained sometimes two to three-minute mask breaks are given throughout the school day, but oftentimes that’s not enough.

“It’s hard because you can’t breathe then if you pull it down the teachers like can you please pull that back up,” Caminiti said.

During the school board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Jeffery James read a statement explaining that the district must follow the statewide mask mandate set by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper that requires masks be worn in all public schools. The district is offering mask waivers for those who need them.

The day after the meeting, the district announced that all students and staff will be required to wear masks for the remainder of this school year.

“Iredell-Statesville Schools are proud to be back in school five days a week for grades K-12,” stated Superintendent Dr. Jeff James. “We have worked hard to get students back onto our campuses. We have learned over the last 14 months that solid leadership and a clear COVID safety protocol has been the key to our ability to stay in school. Quarantine rules as it relates to six feet of social distancing have been difficult to manage, and we’ve had to quarantine hundreds of students over the last months. However, we are happy to report that, although we have had COVID in our community, we are not spreading COVID in our schools.” 

The district said they will continue to accept mask waivers that are signed by a medical or mental health professional. 

RELATED: North Carolina's outdoor mask mandate lifts but indoor mask mandate continues

Some argue studies from the CDC show children are less likely to spread the virus and get critically ill if they contract COVID-19. Board Member Bill Howell admitted some of the state mandates may be overstepping boundaries, but the district is still forced to follow them.

“I will not put this board in jeopardy by saying we’re going to do away with masks,” Howell said.

Contact Briana Harper at bharper@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.