ST. GEORGE — A group of around 40 protestors showed up to the Washington County School District building Tuesday morning to voice their concern about their children being mandated to wear masks.
Madeline Kazantzis, a mother of two, told St. George News she started the Moms Against Masks coalition a few months ago in response to trends she saw happening across the country.
“I am a mom, and I don’t agree with mask mandates that have been put in place in other states,” she said. “I was really hoping that we wouldn’t face anything like that here. I’m just against the mandating of them. I believe that having a choice is the key at hand here more than anything. But obviously now that masks have been mandated for the schools in particular here in our state, my coalition has really taken off.”
The purpose of the protest wasn’t just about voicing opposition to mandatory masks in schools but also about freedom.
“For a lot of us, it was to ensure that Americans’ future remains free,” she said.
Providing the opportunity for students to opt out of wearing a mask isn’t only her suggestion, but something she sees as an inevitable necessity for students who have conditions such as asthma. Following the primary election results, Kazantzis has also proclaimed herself as a write-in candidate for governor. She said she’s frustrated with the current leadership.
“People are getting really riled up, and that’s kind of causing division,” she said. “I know people who have gone to the store without a mask on and they get harassed. I think people really need to have some clear guidance.”
In the case that masks do remain mandatory, Kazantzis said she plans on home-schooling.
Kazantzis said she had planned to write a petition to the governor but found out one had already been written by Britney Lindsey, another mother concerned with the mandate. The petition addresses the governor and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and asks them to reconsider the mask mandate for K-12 students. She asks for masks to be a parental decision and that there be an exemption option in the case that parents don’t want to put their child in a mask.
So far, thousands of Utah parents have signed the petition.
One of the issues with masks tends to be with the opposing information provided on both sides. Dr. Angela Dunn, the state epidemiologist, wrote in a Tweet on Tuesday that masks don’t eliminate the spread of COVID-19.
“Physical distancing does a better job. Staying home when sick or quarantining is best. But masks can help reduce the spread.”
The petition preceded a special meeting of the Washington County School District Board of Education meeting, in which the board discussed further details of reopening schools, but they still have not released a conclusive draft of a plan.
According to information provided by Steven Dunham, communications director for the district, in addition to in-person schooling, the current draft allows parents options, including remote or partial remote schooling or online schooling.
Remote or partial remote could potentially be used for absences or in the case of necessary quarantine.
While the district said they are committed to opening in-person school on Aug. 13, in the current draft they have also drafted flexible learning options for students in order to meet individual needs.
They also discussed health concerns related to employees. Lyle Cox, director of human resources for the district, said that 60% of bus drivers fall in the high-risk category, and 39% have multiple high-risk factors. Figuring out the best way to accommodate these employees, as well as students, comes down to minimizing risk.
One of the number one requirements in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home when feeling ill, said David Stirland, president of the board.
The board will be meeting for a work session on Monday at 5:15 p.m., where they plan to finetune the draft of their plan. On July 27 at 5:15 p.m., there will be a meeting open for public feedback about their plan for reopening schools.
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