CLEVELAND — "Dear Mrs. Shryock, why are you making us wear masks? With masks, we can't even get a breath of fresh air."
That's the opening line from a letter written by an 11-year-old student in the Bay Village City School District, one who doesn't want to have to wear a mask in the classrooms for another year.
"I want to go back to school and see my friend's smiles," writes the 11-year-old.
Molly Kilbane, the mother of the student who wrote that letter, is against sending her kids to schools with mask mandates in place. The Bay Village resident says between mental health worries and low COVID-19 cases, she just wants the school district to offer children a choice.
Bay Village officials announced earlier this summer that a mask mandate would be in place for the 2021-22 school year, at least at the beginning while cases in Ohio are currently on the rise.
Just a few weeks ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its COVID-19 recommendations for the upcoming school year, recommending masks for all, and vaccinations for any eligible person.
“There are many children and others who cannot be vaccinated,” said Sara Bode, MD, FAAP, chair-person elect of the AAP Council on School Health Executive Committee. “This is why it’s important to use every tool in our toolkit to safeguard children from COVID-19. Universal masking is one of those tools, and has been proven effective in protecting people against other respiratory diseases, as well. It’s also the most effective strategy to create consistent messages and expectations among students without the added burden of needing to monitor everyone’s vaccination status.”
Despite the recommendation, some school districts have still decided to leave it up to the parents and students to decide.
On Tuesday, families in the Brecksville-Broadview Heights School District went back and forth over the district's decision to not enforce any kind of universal mask mandate for the classrooms.
"Right now public health trumps special ethics... some will not get vaccinated and right now we know the only way to keep us safe is to mask up. It's a simple no-invasive act," said one parent during the meeting.
Another parent suggested a temporary, ten-day mask mandate in order for the school board to properly assess the delta variant's spread.
"While most kids do well, some kids do not," said one parent, who identified himself as a doctor, stating that organ failure and long haulers symptoms as a reason to mask up.
One mother, who is against masks in schools, said her own children's own personal experience with COVID-19 impacted her viewpoint on the topic.
"One thing my kids told me was they were more anxious to wear a mask in school than they were to go say goodbye to their dad," the woman said, referencing her husband who had contracted COVID-19. "Luckily, my husband made it."
You can check out our list of mask guidelines for Northeast Ohio school districts at the link below. Is your school district not on the list? Send over your school's guidelines to HSloop@wkyc.com