Bryan County Schools will be mask optional when classes resume for the second nine weeks Oct. 13, according to an email sent Tuesday night to parents by Dr. Paul Brooksher, superintendent.
Brooksher said the system will continue “with our current quarantine procedures and monitor the specifics daily. Should the statistics begin to trend in a negative direction, it may become necessary to transition back to a ‘mask required’ status.”
Like counterparts around the country, Bryan County school officials have taken heat from parents and community members angry at mask requirements, and Brooksher referenced the rancor in his email.
“In the last month I have been called everything from a disgusting human being, the devil, to a murderer of children,” he wrote, adding, “We are not choosing sides, playing politics, or making decisions based on who screams the loudest. We are working hard every day to make what we believe is the best decision for kids and staff at that time. We are not going from a mask required to anti-mask environment, we are going to mask optional. With that being said, I encourage you to have your child wear a mask if you feel the need.”
While the mask optional measure will likely end protests at school board meetings, not everyone is in favor of ending the mask requirement.
Local nurse practitioner Kathryn Strickland, who has worked with COVID patients, recently opened Friendly Neighborhood NP, a mobile nursing house call business specializing in COVID cases with a partner, nurse Amber Smith.
Strickland has children in the school system and asked the BOE in August to keep the policy in place.
“I am saddened that the board has gone to a ‘mask optional’ policy for our schools, especially before all school aged children can be given the opportunity to be vaccinated,” she said in an email Tuesday night. “This needlessly puts students, teachers, and community members at increased risk for contracting coronavirus which has already killed over 700,000 Americans and can lead to long term health complications in over 30% of cases. I will continue to do what I can to help our community. I only hope it is enough.”