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Sheridan students, parents march for end to mask mandate

Sheridan students, parents march for end to mask mandate

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Concerned parents and students gathered outside the Sheridan County School District 2 administrative offices in Sheridan prior to the board of trustees’ meeting Monday night to voice their support to end the requirement for students and staff to wear masks in school. Several later spoke at the meeting, while others continued to protest outside.

SHERIDAN — Sheridan County School District 2 officials will be seeking a variance to the state’s mask order for schools possibly as early as this week.

For the handful of students and parents attending the SCSD2 Board of Trustees meeting Monday, however, that’s not soon enough. Several of them voiced their concerns — and demands — at the meeting as others stood outside the district’s administrative offices in protest of the order.

“We would like the board members as elected officials to represent us,” said Shelta Rambur, a parent and Sheridan resident, who added she believes the mask order is unconstitutional.

“We need to end the mask mandate,” Rambur said. “It’s sad. We’re being misled by fear. Our kids need to be focused on learning.”

Diomena Mercer, a junior at Sheridan High School, said students had signed a petition to request the end of the mask order. One reason for the request, according to the junior, was the mask order has led to many students feeling “sad, isolated and unmotivated,” while also making it more difficult for individuals to socially connect with teachers and other students.

“When they can’t see those facial expressions, they have a tougher time making those connections,” Mercer said. “They aren’t even wearing them right most of the time anyway. There’s no reason in keeping them.”

A return to normalcy appears closer to reality, as U.S. air travel is surging and some of America's biggest cities are reopening. But cases are rising again in parts of the country, including the Northeast and - particularly - in Michigan. The U.S. has had 30.6 million cases and more than 550,000 deaths from the virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci says the uptick in vaccinations will hinder chances of seeing a fourth wave of the virus. But Fauci told Newsy's sister station - WXYZ in Detroit - that the state of Michigan may have opened up too early and now is seeing a spike in cases as a possible result. He called for continued vaccinations - and vigilance."If we could continue that," Fauci said, "I believe we'll be able to blunt these surges and that's the reason why were of concern that we really want people to not declare victory prematurely and pull back on masking and pull back on avoiding congregate settings because there's the danger of exactly what's happening in Michigan right now."Meanwhile, the CDC says fully vaccinated people can now enjoy some more freedoms - like getting on an airplane.TSA air travel numbers have continued to rise for more than 20 days straight. But while the CDC says it's generally safe for vaccinated people to fly, it still isn't recommending that they do so. "While we believe the fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk to themselves, CDC is not recommending travel at this time due to the rising number of cases," CDC Director, Rochelle Walenski, said.

Besides, Mercer said, the facts do not support the continuation of the order, with many teachers also growing weary of reminding students to have masks on properly.

“We’re the group that’s the least susceptible,” Mercer said. “It’s fear mongering.

“All it’s doing is hurting their mental health,” she added.

One parent read a letter by her 11-year-old, stating he had been bullied and harassed by teachers about wearing a mask property, despite having trouble breathing with one on. The parent added her son shouldn’t have to live in fear of such criticism.

Another parent, John Bublich, said the mask order is contradictory with masks being required while students are in school but the same kids then “hanging out” together without at home and while out at most public places.

“I hope you’re over it,” he told board members. “I am, too.”

SCSD2 Board of Trustees Chair Susan Wilson said the concerns voiced at Monday’s meeting were not falling on deaf ears.

“We will be taking your comments into consideration,” Wilson said. “We admire your advocacy for our kids.

“We will listen to you,” she added.

Those protesting the mask order could soon have their wish to allow students to stop wearing masks while attending school.

Board unanimously approved a recommendation to allow SCSD2 administrators to move forward and request the variance and, depending on whether the district then receives an OK, to plan for and implement any appropriate changes in the mask policy.

“We were waiting to see what spring break had done as far as more cases,” said SCSD2 Superintendent Craig Dougherty. “We’ve been trending in a very positive direction.

“We’ve had all our schools open and all our activities available to our kids. That’s exactly what we wanted to do,” he added. “This is not a decision we take lightly. We try to be very thoughtful.”

According to Dougherty, SCSD2 will collaborate with both SCSD1 and SCSD3 on any change in policy, with district officials possibly applying for the variance as early as Thursday.

“Every month we update you on our Smart Start Plan,” he said. “We also try to coordinate that with the other districts in the county.”

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