Parents, students want Durham School District to unmask, school board waiting on state

Several parents and students rallied outside the Durham School Board Meeting Wednesday night, demanding the board drop the mask requirement for students. However, the school board must wait for the state to change their rules first.

Posted: May 19, 2021 11:52 PM
Updated: May 20, 2021 8:58 AM

DURHAM, Calif. - One local school district is under pressure from parents to drop the mask requirement for students. But, Durham School District officials said they'll update their mask rules when the state allows it.

The school board says they'll send a letter to the state to ask that the school district can make masks optional in schools.

Parents and students here want common ground.

"That reality needs to be chosen, choosing to wear a mask or not to wear a mask," said Mikaela Hergst, a mother who pulled her children from the Durham School District during the pandemic because of the mask requirement.

A rally held by parents and students outside the Durham school board meeting called for a complete unmasking of the district.

"We're out of the emergency situation," she said. "And these mandates are going away, and it's not okay, we really need it to stop."

The board decided Wednesday that once schools are able to, the mask requirement for all students can be updated.

"I understand that you're giving me the authority to change the policies as soon as we're allowed to," said Superintendent John Bohannon. "And, that we will continue to bring updates to the board at all future board meetings until we know exactly what's going on."

However, the state is still requiring masks in public places.

And, COVID-19 cases in children are rising, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under 17 make up 24% of new cases. That's 10% higher than average.

"Does that not bother you, that if you get rid of the masks there may be more cases than there are already?" asked Action News Now Reporter Esteban Reynoso.

"Children while they may be, contracting the virus, they're also healing from it," responded Hergst. "And they're strengthening their immune system, so no that doesn't change my view."

Despite all of this some parents and even some students want to see the mask requirement dropped.

"Last year we were free and we didn't have to wear a mask," said Rauley Hergst, Mikaela's middle child.

"I feel like it doesn't feel right when I see a person or my friend wearing a mask," said the fourth-grader.

"In August, there's nobody that wants it more than the school board and myself," said Bohannon over the phone.

It is worth noting that the entire Durham school district has had 14 cases of the virus this spring semester.

If the mask rules do change from now until June 15, the school district says the superintendent has the power to implement those rules immediately.

The school board will meet again on June 16.

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