LEE COUNTY — We heard more passionate arguments from both sides of the debate over masks in the classroom Wednesday night.
The Lee County School Board met just hours after choosing to continue to require students to wear masks in school.
The meeting mostly served as a forum for reaction. Parents and teachers came out to either support the board’s decision to continue to mandate masks, or express their anger at how that mandate is affecting their family.
“This is not safe," said one speaker before the board while holding a used mask.
"I applaud this School Board and our Superintendent for enforcing a mask mandate," said another speaker, wearing an N-95 mask at the podium.
One former teacher we spoke with at the meeting said she was happy to see the Board take a stand.
“The mask mandate was necessary," said Marsha Ellis, who used to teach at Varsity Lakes Middle School.
Ellis said she quit this year to protect her health.
“I had colleagues all around me who became ill, who had to go to the emergency room, said Ellis.
But others at the meeting were strongly against mandatory masking.
“I’m very disappointed in them and the fact that they’re violating the Governor’s order. Hell, he’s the Governor," said Donald Del Rio, who has a son in Lee County Schools.
Del Rio said he had trouble when trying to take his kid to school without a mask.
“I tried today, and they said you either need to pick him up, or we’re going to isolate him. Isolating a child because they’re not wearing a mask? This is discrimination," said Del Rio.
Hearing concerns like that, board member Mary Fischer responded with some compassion.
“I don’t think anyone should be punished if their parents have told them not to wear a mask," said Fischer.
But despite small changes like that, the mandate itself will stay in place until the end of the month. Ellis hopes it’s extended longer, while Del Rio says he may have to make other plans.
“I feel like it’s the moral, the compassionate thing to do," said Ellis.
“If this keeps up, I’m just going to withdraw him, which I’m sure most of every other parent is going to do, and the school system is going to lose a lot of funding," said Del Rio.
The Lee County School District said in its letter Wednesday morning it made the decision to keep the mandate in place based on the decision by the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court, overruling Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order. That’s a decision the Florida Department of Education is in the process of appealing.