Dear Editor: Recent changes by the Madison County Board of Education regarding mask and COVID-19 procedures have become quite the uproar for the past weeks with many students, parents and teachers being divided on the subject.

In a student-created petition to keep the Madison County mask mandate it got roughly 1,000 signatures. The district published a survey for staff to get their input on if mask should be mandatory during the school day. Sixty-seven percent of the staff voted to keep masks mandatory.

The board of education also held two meetings at which all staff speakers, with an exception of one, spoke to keep mask because of the importance of in-person teaching and emphasized the fact positive case numbers remained low because of the mask requirement.

Nine students also spoke at these meetings, six of them being for keeping the mask mandate, all speaking their concerns of the safety of themselves and their friends if the mask mandate were to be lifted. At the end of all of this, the board of education still decided in a 5-0 vote that the mask mandate should be removed. Masks are now not required in classrooms or outside and only encouraged in the hallways and yet even that is not being followed.

Many students of the high school feel the policy change was unfair and an inaccurate representation of how a majority of students at MCHS feel. As of Friday, October 30 many students went back to school and found themselves in an environment that was risking their health and safety and yet they had no control over it.

Emails of concern are falling on deaf ears and many students feel trapped. Online school, as offered at the beginning of the year, is no longer open and still does not accommodate honors or AP classes meaning students would have to choose between their safety, their GPA and their future.

Students who started the beginning of the year in person were ensured that the school had their best interest in mind and that protocols were in place to protect them. Parents of high-risk children made the difficult decision to send their kids to school believing masks would be worn and their health was top priority.

Now, a quarter through the year, virtually all those protocols are gone or being ignored and families are stuck with no way out. We, as the students of Madison County High School, are using our voices to speak out for ourselves, friends who have suffered, staff who are afraid of speaking due to repercussions, and those who are younger than us who don't have a voice.

We would like the parents and the board to know that we aren't just silly kids and deserve a voice in our health and education. I have many friends who are willing to speak on this matter as well as one who recently battled COVID-19 and still lives with horrible side effects that will never allow him to return to normal life.

Sincerely,

Cheyenne Nicholson

MCHS student

(2) comments

Virginia Moss

This seems like a no-brainer. If the majority of school-involved folks want to go with what is recommended for enhanced public health, then that's what should be done. As a senior citizen, I very much appreciate any added precautions citizens anywhere will do to protect me and each other. Of course, there should be exceptions to the wearing of masks for the very youngest students due to proper developmental issues around mental health in kindergarten and even first grade.

Virginia Moss

Excellent letter! It's a difficult decision, but given the simplicity of mask-wearing and the protections it gives everyone, why decide against mandatory masks? I can see physical distancing as a much more difficult issue to accomplish in a school. Tossing that aside makes far more sense than nixing masks. Masks are even more necessary when you can't keep everyone distanced. What has happened to common sense?

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