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School board meetings become contentious as parents, administrators continue mask debate

Mask school
Posted at 6:47 PM, Sep 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-13 19:33:11-04

BEREA, Ohio — Calling it "smoke and mirrors,” James Grosh recently spoke out against masks at a Berea City School Board meeting.

"It’s a virus. You think those cloth things you are wearing on your face is going to stop a virus? You're crazy. It's just ridiculous,” said Grosh.

Community members like Grosh, as well as parents on both sides of the mask debate, are using school board meetings to passionately take a stance.

"It's very disappointing when you have to have security and police at a meeting like that," said Rick Novickis.

It's familiar territory for Novickis.

"We understand what the schools are going through and the pressures that they're feeling from the parents and others," said Novickis.

Novickis is the Director of Environmental Public Health at the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.

"They're doing everything they humanly can in a very tough situation to try to prevent disease transmission in the classroom," said Novickis.

While Novickis wants to see all districts require masks, the reality is many in Cuyahoga County are keeping masks as only "strongly recommended."

Requiring masks at all local schools is "what's going to make the difference and keep kids in school for the rest of the year," said Novickis.

At last week's Berea City School Board meeting, Superintendent Tracy Wheeler said most students in grades 6-12 in the district are not masking up.

"If we continue to see an increase in the number of students that we need to quarantine, I do believe we have no other choice but to mandate masks in our classrooms and our buildings," said Wheeler.

Over the weekend, that's exactly what happened.

Masks are now mandatory at Berea Mid-Park Middle School after more than 300 students were quarantined last week.

"I just have a philosophical problem with the government telling Americans what they can and cannot do regarding their health," said Steve Dockman.

Dockman, a Berea school board member said children can remain in class while still choosing whether to mask up.

"Kids' grades are suffering. Their social interaction is suffering. Mental health is suffering. We must have a balance, okaY? It can't just be all one-sided. We just have so many different standards now. There's a lot of confusion," said Dockman.

With a rapidly rising number of students in quarantine across Cuyahoga County, Novickis said it has never been clearer what needs to be done to turn the tide -- masking up in schools and staying at least three feet apart.

"And if all it takes is wearing masks for a portion of the day when we're around others, I don't think it's too much of a price to pay," said Novickis.

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