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Both the Burlington and West Burlington school boards voted in favor of reinstating mask mandates for their districts. While the West Burlington school district (WBSD) is accepting both medical and religious exemptions, the Burlington school district is only accepting written medical exemptions at this time. As of Monday, September 20, dozens of students have been granted religious exemptions for the mask policy at the WBSD. In place of masks, these students have been alerted they will be required to wear face shields.

On September 15, following the school board vote, West Burlington Superintendent Lisa Beams took to Facebook to detail the policy as well as student consequences should they refuse to wear a mask. Most notably, if a student refuses and a parent is unavailable to pick up their child or unwilling to do so, law enforcement will be called for support. Beams goes on to state that virtual learning is not an option for the WBSD this academic year and provides alternatives if parents and students refuse to comply with the new policy, not limited to open enrolling students in another district or home schooling. As of the time of writing, the Burlington school district has not included guidance for noncompliance.

The biggest question parents have with the mask mandates is what science is being followed? The FDA, CDC, OSHA and NIOSH have all recognized that cloth face coverings aren’t even considered face masks and are not regulated by any authority to determine efficacy. In most cases, the cotton face cloths offer no filtration nor do they meet fluid barrier levels. Surgical masks only prevent the transmission of large droplets and bodily spray or splashes from others (namely blood or other bodily fluids from a surgery) from the wearer. Neither of these options are a form of protection against Covid-19, and it’s high time the mainstream media accept this reality.

Suggestions by parents wishing to respect the needs of immunocompromised students and parents who want to protect their own children by wearing N95 Respirators have largely been ignored by the school board members, the school districts, and parents. For parents who do wish to have their children masked, without pushing their own medical decisions on others, N95 respirators seem to be the ideal solution. First and foremost, unlike cloth and surgical masks, respirators are designed to protect the wearer.

Did the country forget that respirators were acknowledged as the ‘ideal mask’ at the onset of the pandemic? However, supposed supply shortages led to our governing officials asking us to leave those for nurses, doctors and other frontline healthcare workers? Why has guidance not shifted in the past 18 months as supply caught up? A shift in the narrative to encourage self-accountability would do wonders for easing public fear and tensions that are at an all-time high by alerting those terrified by this virus, they can protect themselves without relying on others. Even more, N95 respirators are now available for children. Respirators reduce exposure to large and small droplets and aerosols, which are becoming the primary way Covid-19 has been found to spread when air filtration and ventilation are poor.

If your child’s school board has implemented a mask mandate again, I encourage you to persist in a push for the rescinding of such mandate and instead offer those who do want to protect their own children, to don a N95 respirator. In such a circumstance, it then restores the health of our children to our responsibility and care, as it always had been and should remain. As always, our health is our responsibility. We are and should be in charge of health and medical decisions that affect our children.

Author: Mallory Kienast