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Parents grapple with decision on masking children ahead of school year

Some worry about choice and what happens in classroom
Child wearing mask
Posted at 5:39 AM, Jul 26, 2021

LAKE PARK, Fla. — With the school year approaching, parents are tasked with a tough choice: should their children wear masks or not?

"My kids are under 12, so they still wear mask," said Melody Rodriguez, a mother of three children, ages 2, 6 and 7. "I think they should absolutely be in masks. It kept us from having a sick household for almost two years now."

Aimee Romano has a rising first-grade student.

"I personally am done with the masks for my child," said Romano. "It's a choice we have made for our child and he is immuno-compromised. ... This is very polarizing. These people are very upset on both sides."

Both moms have strong opinions.

"It's like playing Russian roulette with COVID with small children," said Rodriguez. "It could be no symptoms or it could trigger a really scary, nasty major disease. As far as that goes, I don't want to play that game."

"They need to work on social, emotional at this point," said Romano. "These children will be carrying this forever with them."

Both of these moms are now calling for more calmness and understanding about masks for the sake of our children. They both plan to discuss their choice on masking with their children ahead of the school year.

"I will eventually explain to him that this year, you don't have to wear a mask, but some kids might and that is OK," said Romano.

"I am a little concerned that some of the more aggressive anti-maskers are going to portray that to their children, and kids like my kids, who still wear a mask, are going to get bullied, and I certainly don't want my kids to say anything to kids not wearing masks, acting like they should be," said Rodriguez. "It is not their place it is for every family to decide at this point."

Lisa Cullom, the owner and principal of Coastal Middle and High School, a small school in Lake Park, said she feels it is part of the teacher's responsibility to stop any issues before they start.

"As educators, I think it's our responsibility to have open communication from the beginning with our students that some choose this, some choose that, and no matter what, we are letting everyone have their own opinion and we are not judging. We are not bullying," she said. "It's kind of off the table as far as topics."

Alexa Wilhelm, a leader teacher at Coastal High School, said she "100%" expects masks to come up. She plans to address it right off the bat on the first day of school.

"Bring it out right in the beginning," she said. "Tell them, you know, some kids want to wear it. Some kids don't."

Some parents believe as the start of the school year gets closer, emotions get stronger.

"It is a bad situation for everybody, and we are trying to do the best that we can," said Romano. "But I do think the moms are vicious, and I do think everyone needs to relax and think about how you are handling yourself as your children are watching."