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'They changed the rules': Monroe County parent hopes for normalcy for students as schools no longer require masks

Board members voted 5 to 2 to make masks optional in all school buildings, on school grounds, and while riding the bus.

MONROE COUNTY, Ga. — Students and staff in the Monroe County School District were allowed to go to school without masks Wednesday.

This follows Tuesday night's board meeting where members voted 5 to 2 to make masks optional in all school buildings, on school grounds, and while riding the bus.

"'Today, we did not wear a mask!' They felt excited, and I was excited," parent Beth Youmans said.

This is very rare for Beth Youmans and her two boys.

She describes not wearing a mask for the first time as a "full-circle moment."

"Our youngest has special needs and so he has a lot of breathing issues, and actually, in December of 2019, he was hospitalized with coronavirus," Youmans said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Youmans and her family were very cautious.

"We wore our masks everywhere. I was kind of upset if I saw people without a mask on," Youmans said.

Now, she says she sees both sides, and she's ready for things to feel normal for her children again, so on Wednesday, they went to school without a mask

"They said, 'Mom, we can't go into school. We don't have a mask on.' I said, 'They changed the rules. You can go in without a mask on!'" Youmans said.

Priscilla Doster with the Monroe County Board of Education says the board made this decision after closely reviewing data through the North Central Health District and tracking the number of COVID-19 cases within the schools.

"Dr. Hickman has been tracking the number of cases in the county and in the school and we have been seeing this number trending downward," Doster said.

Doster says although the district is not requiring masks anymore, everyone should still be cautious and use their best judgement.

"COVID-19 is a very serious situation. People have gotten tired of masking, they've gotten tired of social distancing, but the disease hasn't gotten tired of being here unfortunately," she said.

Although masks are not required, they are still highly recommended. 

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