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Parent speaks out about mask mandate, CCSD sticks with masks for a few more weeks

At the beginning of the Chambers County School Board meeting on Wednesday, the board listened to a parent, Jerry East, share his concerns about his children’s educations and the school system’s mask requirements.

East began by asking why his fourth grader is learning from a newspaper printed by a company instead of from a state textbook. He then said his eighth-grade child isn’t familiar with the Bill of Rights.

“I knew about the Bill of Rights in, I want to say, about the sixth grade,” he said. “I don’t understand how that can be possible, that big of a difference, from learning about the Constitution and Bill of Rights from when I was in school and now.”

East said that for the last two or three months, his kids have frequently complained of headaches and talked about being sick.

“The way we are treating our children are indoctrinating them to think that no matter if they’re healthy or not, they’re going to get somebody sick,” he said. “And that is one way to create a hypochondriac.”

He argued that if a child is repeatedly told they’re going to get sick, they will eventually start believing it.

According to East, a 2017 study found that masks weren’t effective at containing viruses.

“We don’t want kids to have a mind of their own to think on their own nowadays,” he said. “We don’t want parents to have the right to choose for their kids.”

East argued that there were no mask mandates for the H1N1 flu or common flu. He said that by requiring masks, the school system was discouraging kids from being individuals and teaching them to obey authorities without question.

He said that by standing up for his children, he might inspire other parents to do the same.

“There’s no sense in someone not knowing who they’re talking to,” he said.

Superintendent Casey Chambley told East he appreciated his presence at the meeting. He said he wasn’t sure what East meant about the newspaper and that he’d have to talk to the principal at that child’s school.

“But we do use supplemental materials in school,” Chambley said. “We don’t just teach from books. We use a lot of different materials in the schools. We have newspapers delivered, and they use the newspapers to read.”

As far as the mask mandate, Chambley said he understood East’s frustration. He said there were as many studies showing that masks slow the spread of viruses as there are studies that show that they don’t. However, he said he makes his mask recommendations based on the advice of medical experts. He said he thought that requiring masks in Chambers County schools was driving COVID numbers down and compared wearing them to wearing seatbelts.

“You’re not guaranteed to live through a crash if you’re wearing a seatbelt, but it’s sure going to help your chances,” he said.

In other business at the meeting, Chambley recommended that the school system require masks for the next three and a half weeks until the board meets in October to reevaluate COVID data. The board approved his recommendation.

“We are seeing numbers decline in the state, and we are seeing the numbers decline in our area,” Chambley said. “… We are sending out updates daily. And we’re also sending out updates weekly. Once these updates hit the COVID dashboard, which goes Tuesday to Tuesday, we felt like it would be beneficial for parents to see a daily update. We’re not doing that daily update by school, but we are doing the daily update by county.”

Chambley said that for the weekly Tuesday to Tuesday update, ending on Sept. 28, the school system had 19 positive student cases and four positive staff cases.

“So, that’s good that our numbers are dropping,” he said. “However, Chambers County, I believe, has had three or four deaths in the past week in our county due to COVID. So, we are seeing a decline. We’re seeing the numbers drop, the hospitalizations are going down, and the use of ventilators are decreasing. However, I spoke to our lead nurse, and she felt that we still need to go with our mask order for another month. So what I felt like we should do is review the data in October, October the 15th, which is a Friday — Our next board meeting will be on the 20th — and for us to look at reducing the mandate if the numbers continue at that point in time. That would be my recommendation.”

During the superintendent’s report, Chambley said the school system was dealing with shortages of various types.

“We are in a situation now that we are dealing with not only teacher shortages and sub shortages,” he said. “We’re dealing with bus driver shortages, we’re dealing with trucking shortages, we’re dealing with food shortages. As I normally do when we talk about COVID and those issues, one thing that I would ask our parents to do and our community — please offer our staff some grace during these times.”

Chambley said schools were having to alter their menus because of food shortages.

“It’s not optimal, but we’re doing the best we can to continue to feed and put out good, nutritious meals… so we would ask for some grace,” he said.

Chambley said approximately 16 teams from all over the southeast would go to Inspire Academy on Saturday to race battery-powered cars built by students. He said racing would start at 8 a.m. CDT.

Chambley announced that LaFayette High School would be having homecoming festivities on Saturday. Additionally, he announced that there would be a professional development day on Wednesday, Oct. 6, on which there would be no school.