NEWARK – Several community members continue to object to the mask requirement in place in Worcester County’s public schools.
More than a half dozen citizens attended Tuesday’s Worcester County Board of Education meeting — the first one that allowed public in-person attendance in 18 months — to voice their frustrations with the mask mandate.
“Forcing children to wear a mask seven, eight hours a day is child abuse,” parent Katie Addis said.
During the portion of the meeting designated for public comment, Addis and other Worcester County residents shared their concerns with masks. Several referenced the fact that while Superintendent Lou Taylor initially said students wouldn’t have to wear masks, a mask requirement had been put in place following the state board’s vote in favor of universal masking.
“You have 10 officers here,” said Bishopville resident Richard Addis, referencing the deputies from the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office lining the entrance and hall to the boardroom. “If you’re doing something that you’re so scared of the public that you have to have 10 officers here, you gotta ask yourself are you doing the right thing.”
Speaker Jamie Rice said she was sharing her opinion even though it would fall on deaf ears.
“Nothing comes between funding and the school system, not even children,” she said.
Local resident Caryn Abbott argued that Worcester County should make decisions for its children.
“Since when does the state know what’s best for our county?” she said.
Abbott also demanded the board conduct a public vote regarding the mask mandate.
“We have a right to know as taxpayers where you stand,” she said.
Several speakers said that the Code of Maryland Regulations stated that local board authority should not be undermined.
“You should not surrender your authority,” Darren Lombardo said. “You represent the people of this county.”
He added that people should be able to choose if they wanted to get vaccinated and to choose whether to wear a mask.
“Nobody should be forced to do anything against their will,” he said. “That’s the problem”
A Showell Elementary School parent shared his frustration with the quarantine process, as he said he’d spent hours on the phone trying to figure out what he needed to do to get his child back in school following a positive COVID test in his family.
Elena McComas, president of the school board, thanked the speakers.
“It’s important to hear everyone,” she said.
When audience members asked if the board would be voting on the mask issue, Taylor said it would not.
“There’s not going to be a vote today,” he said. “It’s something that will be discussed.”