Beavercreek residents protest school mask mandate

Crowds filled the lobby of the Beavercreek board of education building to protest the district's decision to mandate masks for students in grades K-6.
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Crowds filled the lobby of the Beavercreek board of education building to protest the district's decision to mandate masks for students in grades K-6.

‘You’re prepared to dig in your heels. So are we.’

Crowds packed the Beavercreek Board of Education meeting Thursday night to protest, and in some cases defend, the district’s decision to require masks for students in grades K-6.

The district’s decision to increase protections for students came in a letter to parents Tuesday. The announcement was met with mixed reactions.

Many protesters carried signs decrying masks. Some who spoke were completely against mask wearing. Others protested against the mandate itself, saying it should be up a parents’ choice.

Tracy Rudicelli said her daughter struggled last year wearing a mask and experiencing lockdown. She said her daughter had difficulty concentrating and her test scores dropped.

“We suffered almost a whole year to have a normal environment, but the long-term impacts of the choices we made are not known,” she said, growing emotional. “Does my child’s health and well-being not matter? Who are you to choose which students matter and which don’t?”

Another resident said she and other parents do not plan to comply. “You are prepared to dig in your heels. So are we,” she said.

Others spoke in favor of the mask mandate, or simply called for reason. Preston, a sixth-grader at Jacob Coy Middle School, spoke at the meeting to the assembled crowd of adults. The boy has a heart condition that has prevented him from participating in activities, and “feeling like a normal kid,” he said, because of safety concerns around the coronavirus.

“Everyone around me has to wear a mask to keep me and everyone else safe, or I cannot participate in anything: sports, school,” he said. “Please remember me the next time you think about wearing a mask.”

During a presentation, officials said that the district would continue monitoring the pandemic, and that the policy is subject to change.

“Our policy for masking is not set in stone,” said Jo Ann Rigano, president of the Beavercreek board of education. “If masking saves just one child’s life, it is worth it. I will always err on the side of safety to protect our kids.”

Northmont, Springboro and Fairborn have also gone to mask requirements for elementary-aged students. Fairborn requires them for every student.

Northmont City Schools have mandated masks for students in preschool through sixth grade beginning on Monday, Aug. 23.

“The Ohio Department of Health continues to recommend students should be in class five days a week and we agree students need to be in our buildings for both academic and social reasons,” the school district said on its website. “With the rise in COVID cases and the resulting quarantines from exposure we believe it is time to make a change to our masking policy.”

Wearing masks in grades 7-12 is strongly recommended for Northmont students, but not required.

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