EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (KMOV.com) -- Masking is optional. That's the message the Madison County Board of Health is sending to its local schools Wednesday. A vote was taken in a special session to encourage optional masking in this upcoming school year, which passed with a majority vote Wednesday evening. 

However, before the meeting, signs, shirts, parents and their children surrounded the Madison County Courthouse steps. 

"We're here hoping the Madison County Board will pass a resolution to encourage school districts around our area to give parents their choices of what needs to be done," Megan Cunningham said.

Cunningham, a Madison County teacher, parent and founder of 'Speak for Students,' says it's about choice. 

"We're not an anti-mask group, we're not an anti-vax group, we're a pro-parent choice group," Cunningham said. 

In an 18-10 vote Wednesday evening, the Board passed a resolution that encourages optional masking this upcoming school year. Board members Jack Minner and Elizabeth Dalton were two of 10 who voted against the resolution. They said that they don't believe the county should get involved in the politics surrounding schools. 

"I do not support this. I have complete confidence in our administrators, our school board, our regional superintendent of schools," Minner said. 

Minner argued that the county board of health had no business meddling in schools' decisions. 

"Help people to get out there and get vaccinated, or whatever we can do to control the pandemic, but the school system is not anything we have authority over," Dalton said. 

Dalton and Minner are right to an extent. Although the board passed this resolution, it doesn't mandate schools' masking policies in any way. However, some parents say, making masking optional would give kids a sense of normalcy. 

"We understand that you need to mask, we will be careful around your children, but please let our children return to normalcy," Natasha Box said. 

Box, who has two kids in the Collinsville District, says she wants her kids to experience normal socialization with peers. Something she says makes school fun. 

Moving forward, schools in Madison County still have to make a decision on masking policies for this upcoming fall. Some start class in just a few weeks. For now, Highland CUSD 5 is the only school with a decision. They've chosen to make masking optional. 

Copyright 2021 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved


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