Views on both sides of mask debate fill public comment at Johnson City Schools Board of Education meeting

Keeping Schools Safe

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Doctors, parents and community members asked the Johnson City Schools Board of Education to relax its mask rule for students during public comment at Monday night’s meeting.

“The mandates that were initially enforced due to COVID have gone on far too long,” said parent Kimberly Ting.

Dr. Mark Donovan, a local pediatrician, said: “We’re meant to be exposed to viruses…we are not meant to be wiping down everything…keeping everything sterile.”

Most of those addressing the board against wearing masks are members of the Johnson City Freedom group, a group dedicated to ending COVID-related mandates in the area.

“There are over 700 people that believe in our freedom of choice and that the mask mandates need to stop,” said member and recovery room nurse, Debbie Desicher.

However, other parents, doctors and teachers asked the board to keep the current measures.

“All I want to do is keep the protocols in place,” said JC Schools Speech Pathologist LaDawn Hudgins.

County Commissioner and Johnson City Schools mom Jodi Jones agreed. “We are anxious to see these protocols get to work so we can all go back to school,” she said.

Ivy Click is an assistant dean in the Quillen College of Medicine at ETSU. She says the system requiring face masks solidified her decision to send her kids back to the classroom.

“The reason that I decided to send my kids back to school is because of the safety protocols that you put in place,” Click said.

The leader of the Johnson City Education Association also spoke to the board. He said requiring masks is about more than just protecting the students.

“We have employees who are at risk their self and we have family members of our employees who are at risk,” said Joe Crabtree.

Ultimately, the Board of Education decides the rule and masks will be required for the foreseeable future.

“As we see those numbers go down in consultation with the health authorities, decisions will be made about when we can remove the mask mandate from our student population,” said board Chair Tim Belisle.

The system’s mask protocol was not discussed at the meeting. Monday was the first-day students who chose the in-person learning option at Liberty Bell Middle School and Science Hill High School were back in the classroom off of the hybrid model.

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