NACS parents remain divided over school mask requirement

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – On Monday, Northwest Allen County Schools (NACS) held its first school board meeting since dozens of parents protested the district’s mask requirement. After the meeting, one thing remains clear: the district’s parents are still divided on the issue.

About 150 people attended the meeting: 31 of those people – including three students – seized the opportunity to speak in front of the board. 19 spoke in favor of the mask requirement, while 12 spoke against it.

“I feel like what’s best for the community is we should continue to wear the masks,” said Jodi Heeter, a NACS high school English teacher. “We’ve been doing it all year, it has worked and we don’t have really much to go. I know it sounds cliché, but if we can hang in there, I think some changes will come over the summer.”

Unlike the last board meeting, there was not a protest. However, those against mask requirement still have the same mission.

“I’m hoping that the school board will start to question the narrative and start to question the local health officials on the information that they’re getting and question the governor,” said Travis Striggle, a parent of two Oak Hill Elementary School students and the leader of the “Unmask NACS Students Now” group.

Monday’s meeting was moved to Carroll High School’s cafeteria to accommodate the large group. Each speaker was asked to keep their speech to under two minutes. After Striggle’s second two-minute address, he tossed a box of disposable masks into the audience.

He said although there’s only 34 days left in the school year, he feels if they don’t continue to fight this, the masks could continue to be required when school starts back up again.

“I think we’re going to find ourselves in a situation where these variants are going to flare up, and next thing you know we have to continue match next school year, and we’re not going to stand for that,” Striggle said.

While NACS’ superintendent, Dr. Chris Himsel said it was interesting to hear all of the perspectives, the current requirements will remain in place.

“When we sit down and we think about what we’ve done over the last year, we’ve always tried to navigate the burden of making sure that we are doing enough to protect our most vulnerable students and our employees,” Dr. Himsel said. “We’re not going to deviate from that.”

The only thing Dr. Himsel said could change this, is if the governor’s order changes or if the medical professionals the district has been working with say that masks are no longer necessary.

The next school board meeting will be held on April 26.

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