MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama students are returning to classrooms this month with local school systems split on whether masks will be required.
Mask mandates in local K-12 schools have drawn a mix of support from parents who see it as the best way to protect unvaccinated children against COVID-19 and anger from those who see it as infringement on personal decisions, news outlets report.
The Alabama Department of Public Health, adopting guidance from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, is recommending schools require masks as the state sees an uptick in COVID-19 cases. Alabama is leaving the decision to local school systems, instead of imposing — or forbidding — mask mandates as some states have done.
Hoover City Schools on Friday voted to require masks for the first 30 days of the school year.
“I want my kid and every other kid in the community to go back safely – this includes high-risk kids, kids with disabilities, and we can’t do that without a mask mandate,” Misty Mathews, a parent, told WBRC.
But some students carried signs reading, “no more masks” during the meeting and a group of parents opposing the mandate gathered to pray in the parking lot.
In neighboring Vestavia Hills, the school system announced that masks will be optional during the school year.
The Opelika-Auburn News reported that parents attended city council and school board meetings in both cities to voice opposition to mask mandates in those city school systems.
“What we do with our bodies is a personal choice. … I’m not here to tell you what choices you should make, nor will I ever. We all have our opinions, we all think we’re right,” Auburn resident Jonathon Parish said,
“I’m not here to tell you how to live your life, I’m here to tell you, ‘Don’t do that to me. Don’t do that to my kids.’”
But another Auburn resident said parents should get vaccinated if they want the mask requirement to go away. Alabama has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country.
“There’s one good way to get rid of the mask. Ninety-nine percent of the people who have died were not vaccinated. Our school children have to be vaccinated for polio, for diphtheria, for measles and others, but nobody seems to be complaining about that,” Michael Halperin said.
“I’m not a big mask person, but I want to save lives,” he said.
A group of parents in Tuscaloosa urged that city’s school system to adopt a mask requirement before school start next week, ABC 33/40 reported.
“You wouldn’t send your child into a house on fire, why would you send your child into an environment with an aerosol-born virus,” parent Amanda Lemmert said.