EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (KMOV.com) -- Dozens of parents gathered outside Woodland Elementary in Edwardsville, Ill. before a school board meeting Monday. Some held signs read "Unmask," "Our choice" and "Parents decide."

Some of the parents do not have kids in the Edwardsville school district. Earlier Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended anyone over the age of two, whether they are vaccinated or not, to wear a mask in schools. The CDC recommendation remains that only those who are unvaccinated should wear a mask.

Edwardsville School District 7 board members heard public comment from about a half dozen parents Monday evening. Half of whom asked for masks to be optional, the others asked for mandatory wearing.

"Let the parents have a voice in this," Ashley Cozad said.

Cozad has an 8-year-old daughter in Edwardsville schools. She says masking hasn't been easy for her child over the last year and a half. 

"I really want the school board to make a good decision for us and decide to say let the parents choose. I mean the government don't control us, the school board don't control us. I'm not going to vaccinate my child either, I'm not doing it," Cozad explained.

Cozad and dozens of other district parents are adamant that masking be left to a personal choice.

"I personally believe that raw data here affords masking to be a parental decision, not by the school. Numerous schools in our state, much larger and much smaller than District 7, have already afforded parents the right to choose," a parent named Sarah said. 

Sarah also has children in the district. She was one of the half dozen parents who spoke to the board directly. Right now, Highland CUSD5 is the only Metro East school district that is not requiring masking this fall. The Belleville, O'Fallon Township and Collinsville districts are currently working on their plans. 

While several parents urged district officials to make masking optional, several others asked that it be required. 

"I understand freedom of choice, however, we require all kinds of vaccines to enter schools, we ask that our kids are healthy as to not spread even simpler illnesses like the flu, this is more," Lauren Schroeder explained.

Schroeder, who's a registered nurse, has two kids in Edwardsville District 7.

"I'm here to encourage our district to require masking for all of our children who cannot be vaccinated to be protected through the school year," Schroeder continued. 

Currently, only children 12 and older are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Derek, another parent in favor of required masking, asked the board to consider a bigger picture. 

"We have a higher obligation than what our own particular comfort level is and what our own children want to do. The obligation of a school board in a district like this it to educate children of the community. Whatever we have to do for kids to stay in school is the utmost important thing that this board can do," Derek explained. 

The Edwardsville school board only heard public comment Monday, no decision was made. The Madison County Board of Health, which is made up of some elected officials, is set to meet Wednesday to discuss a resolution on making masking optional. 

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that O'Fallon Township would require masks in the upcoming school year.

Copyright 2021 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved


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