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Group protests mask mandate
Anti mask 1
Protestors alongside Highway 144 in Richmond Hill on Thursday evening. The group wants Bryan County Schools to drop its mask mandate, which was re-instituted earlier Thursday by school officials due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Approximately 25-30 people stood alongside Highway 144 in Richmond Hill on Thursday to protest the Bryan County Schools mask mandate, which has been reinstituted due to concerns over rising COVID-19 numbers.

One of the organizers, Estefany Perez, said the group wants to be able to choose whether their children wear masks in school.

“It’s all about  choice, it’s about all of us being able to assess our own risks, and about being clear what we want for our children, and about letting our children be children,” said Perez, who has kids in the school system. “They’re healthy kids, and they deserve the opportunity to be children. We just want to have a voice in the decision on whether they should wear masks.”

The Bryan County Board of Education announced it was again requiring masks for all students, faculty and staff in an email to parents on Tuesday, sparking a number of protests and calls on social media from people against the decision.

Perez said the group of people opposed to the mask requirement in Bryan County Schools now numbers more than 300 people, and she was among those who protested the mask mandate at school board meetings in the spring. 

Bryan County Schools required masks for all employees and students during the 2020-2021 school year.

The Bryan County Board of Education had a scheduled work session that started at 6 p.m. on Thursday, and it ended by 6:30 p.m.  School Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher couldn’t be reached for comment at the time of this report.

In the email sent to parents, he said the mask mandate will last until the end of the first nine weeks on Oct. 8. Brooksher also hinted that the system could go back to e-learning if numbers don’t improve. About 10,000 students attend Bryan County Schools, which has about 1,400 faculty and staff members. 

here's an excerpt from the email: 

I shared with you early on Bryan County Schools would take a layering approach as it addressed COVID this school year. We continue to evaluate our COVID data daily and, at this point, deem it necessary to put additional measures into place. For this reason, beginning this Thursday, all students and staff will be required to wear masks. This mask mandate will remain in effect until the end of the first nine weeks, October 8th. At that point, we will assess the impacts of all our mitigating strategies and make changes as needed. It is our strong desire the addition of mandated masks and other applicable mitigation efforts will assist us in flattening the COVID curve. Our goal is to stay open as a school system and provide the best possible education to every student no matter their background or where they come from. 

 Currently, we have been given guidance that we should quarantine all students that meet the definition of close contact exposure within six feet. If all students and staff are masked, this guidance changes and recommends only quarantining students that have close contact exposure within three feet. Considering this change, masks should hopefully have a positive impact on possible exposure and we should experience a decline in the number of students that have to be quarantined. 

 In addition to our current mitigating strategies, please know we are also planning for worst case scenario which could include a transition from face-to-face instruction to e-Learning. The COVD-19 guidelines for Bryan County Schools will be updated and sent to parents tomorrow afternoon.

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